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Lawmakers want to raise Arizona teacher pay, but education advocates are skeptical

Arizona teachers and education advocates marched at the Arizona Capitol in 2018 highlighting low teacher pay and school funding.
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Arizona teachers and education advocates marched at the Arizona Capitol in 2018 highlighting low teacher pay and school funding.

Arizona lawmakers say they’ll unveil a plan to raise the salaries of the state’s K–12 public school teachers. If it’s ultimately approved by voters, pay would increase by about $4,000 a year.

The Republican-led proposal would ask Arizona voters to renew Proposition 123, which expires in 2025.

The measure, supported by former Gov. Doug Ducey, was passed seven years ago and has since funneled about $300 million a year to public schools by increasing payments from the State Land Trust.

Now lawmakers want to redirect those funds to support a 7% raise for teachers.

GOP leaders say it'll make the state more competitive and won’t raise taxes. They want to include the measure on the 2024 ballot.

"We believe we can continue this dedicated funding source long-term because the fund has already grown exponentially over the last eight years, even during tumultuous economic times," said Senate President Warren Petersen.

But the education advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona calls the proposal “irresponsible” and says it merely shifts funding.

“The ‘teacher pay fund’ proposed today by legislative Republicans is a shell game that in real dollars represents deep cuts to K–12 schools. While teacher pay raises are critically needed, this paper-thin proposal does not create new dollars for schools or teachers. Instead, it steals from one pot to give to the other,” said the group in a statement.

If voters ultimately approve the plan, it would still leave Arizona teacher salaries about $7,000 a year below the national average.

The National Education Association currently ranks the state 32nd in the nation for educator pay, with an average of $56,775, and starting teacher salaries of just under $41,496.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.