5 reasons your child's teacher won't get a decent pay raise this year
Laurie Roberts, Published 6:06 a.m. MT April 2, 2018 | Updated 6:54 a.m. MT April 2, 2018
If you live in Arizona, here's why your teacher won't be getting a decent pay raise this year. Arizona teachers are asking for a 20 percent pay raise. Arizona parents are wondering why their kids' schools can't afford to buy Kleenex. And everybody - even Gov. Doug Ducey - agrees that teachers are woefully underpaid. Here's why that won't change any time soon:
1. Arizona leaders are allergic to taxes. In 2014, Ducey ran on a platform of cutting taxes every year, and he's delivered on that promise. Now he's beating the sofa cushions just to find the $34 million needed to give teachers a 1 percent raise. Unless he's willing to eliminate a big-ticket item - the state's prisons, maybe - the money just isn't there to pull teacher pay out of the nation's sub-basement. Not unless he agrees not only to quit cutting taxes but to raise them.
2. We've lost billions due to tax cuts. It's not all Ducey's fault. Over the last two decades, Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature has cut taxes by several billion dollars. Corporate tax collections were $663 million in 2015. By 2020, they're expected to fall to $263 million. That loss of revenue alone would have been enough to boost teacher pay by more than 11 percent.
3. Don't underestimate the Koch brothers' influence on Arizona. Specifically, billionaire Charles and David Koch's big-money network of Republican donors. It was the Kochs who bankrolled Ducey's 2012 campaign in opposition to making permanent a temporary 1 cent sales tax for education - a campaign that gave him the visibility to run for governor. It was the Kochs' millions that that helped Ducey win the Governor's Office in 2014. And it was the Kochs' influence that led to an expanded voucher program that threatens to siphon even more money out of the public schools unless voters veto the plan in November.
4. They get away with it because they excel at spinning the numbers. Ducey likes to say, for example, that funding for teacher salaries has increased by 9 percent since he took office in 2015. He never mentions that most of that 9 percent went to hire additional teachers due to student growth, not to give teachers pay raises. In all, teachers have thus far received a 1 percent bonus from the state since Ducey got elected - and that was up from the fourth-tenths of a percent boost he proposed.
5. Let's face it: lawmakers hate public schools. Every year, Arizona's leaders expand programs that allow public money to be diverted to pay private school tuition through Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (read: vouchers) and/or tuition tax credits.
Meanwhile, public schools are still short $1 billion that was cut during the Great Recession and never restored. The state now spends $924 LESS on your child's education (when inflation is factored in) than it did a decade ago.
Yet every year, we can afford to cut taxes.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org.