UPDATED 6:39 p.m. — As Arizona teachers stage walk-ins and threaten potential walkouts to bargain for higher pay, Deer Valley Unified School District Superintendent Curtis Finch argued today that his district and other Arizona public schools face additional funding challenges beyond the need for higher salaries.
Various surveys put Arizona public school teachers near the bottom of the national pay scale. In the 2016-2017 school year, DVUSD’s average teacher salary was $45,022, as compared to the state teacher-pay average of $48,372, said district spokesperson Monica Allread, citing information from the Arizona Auditor General.
Finch agrees teachers need better pay, and he thinks the proposal made yesterday by Gov. Doug Ducey stands a good chance of passage in the state legislature. Ducey proposed a 10 percent increase this fall and additional 5 percent increases in each of the next two years. The plan would have to be approved by the state legislature.
Finch met with the governor in recent days and will meet Monday morning with leaders of #RedForEd, a group representing Arizona teachers. “I’m trying to get both of them to find a compromise in the middle,” he said today at a town hall in Anthem sponsored by the New River/Desert Hills Community Association.
The #RedForEd movement had called for an immediate 20 percent pay increase for teachers and support staff, plus built-in annual raises and more money for public education in general. Ducey’s proposal is aimed more narrowly at teachers only.
It’s not yet clear how many state teachers support the governor’s proposal, but several in the movement have criticized its narrowness.
Teachers are contemplating a strike for later next week, Finch said.
“I’m trying to convince them that that’s not the best move,” he said today. “But I understand what they’re trying to do, and the pressure they’re [under].”
Asked what the teacher morale is right now in his district, he said: “Talk to me on Tuesday.”
Critics of Ducey’s plan have questioned where the funding will come from, and therefore whether it will pass. Ducey said rising state revenues, efficiencies and budget cuts elsewhere would provide the funds.
Finch said the #RedForEd movement has put enough pressure on state legislators, including those who will be up for re-election in November and who don’t want to see a teacher strike, that the pay hike will pass. “I’d say it’s 80/20 that they’ll pull it off,” he said.
Charter School Criticism
Meanwhile, the state’s diversion of money to charter schools is inefficient, draining funds that could go into regular public schools, Finch said today.
“Arizona is probably the national leader in goofing up” on education issues, Finch said. The legislature is highly involved in education issues, and the state “leads the nation on choice issues,” he said, “with no accountability, no structure, no oversight over charters, for example.”
Finch said charter schools in Arizona use about 20 percent of their budget for administration. At DVUSD, it’s 10 percent, he said.
Charters are often criticized by public-school advocates for attracting some of the best and brightest students, whose parents are highly involved and often able to donate significant funds to the schools.
In the DVUSD district alone, there are 39 charter schools, the most in the state on a per capita basis, Finch said. He has to essentially compete with those schools, in terms of performance and in attracting students.
The DVUSD Governing Board was to vote today on a resolution supporting teachers in the #RedForEd movement. The resolution says “chronic underfunding” of Arizona schools has had a “negative impact to teachers, staff, students, families, community and State.”
The Governing Board “is in full support of our educators as they advocate for meaningful pay raises for public school employees and increased funding for public education in ways that are lawful and do not disrupt the educational mission of our District,” the resolution states. [See Full Text Below]
DVUSD has 33,915 K-12 students at 38 schools, with 4,029 employees and a student-teacher ratio of 18:1, according to a fact sheet Finch handed out today.
Here is the full text of the DVUSD board’s resolution they plan to vote on today in a special meeting:
Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board Resolution Supporting Educators and #RedforEd
WHEREAS the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board recognizes that the funding for schools in Arizona is a billion dollars below 2008 levels; and
WHEREAS the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board is witness to the consequences of this chronic underfunding and sees the negative impact to teachers, staff, students, families, community and State; and
WHEREAS the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board has supported and worked for solutions to fund teacher and support professionals pay raises and other educational needs, only to see the Arizona Legislature continue to enact tax cuts that run counter to our efforts and fail to adequately fund education; and
WHEREAS no one has worked harder nor waited longer for raises and for the money for resources to be restored to their classrooms and schools nor sacrificed more than our teachers and support staff; and
WHEREAS on behalf of our students and families, we cannot allow this crisis to continue without a plan to address these issues, and
WHEREAS we are confident our community, including parents, families, caregivers, business leaders, teachers’ families, school District administrators, neighbors and friends will support meaningful pay raises for public school employees and increased educational funding to educate our children and secure the future of Arizona;
THEREFORE, we support our school employees as they make their demands known for legislative action to secure the necessary funding for meaningful pay raises and education funding;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board is in full support of our educators as they advocate for meaningful pay raises for public school employees and increased funding for public education in ways that are lawful and do not disrupt the educational mission of our District. The Deer Valley Unified School District Governing Board urges the Arizona State Legislature to work urgently on behalf of the children and families in our State to take swift and meaningful action to develop a viable plan to pay teachers the professional salaries they deserve.