Recent increases in teacher pay haven’t come close to lifting Arizona to the national average, according to a national survey released last week by Expect More Arizona.
Arizona remains 49th for elementary school teachers and 48th for secondary school teachers, despite a state budget that provided money for a 10 percent teacher pay raise last year, concluded the business-based education advocacy group.
Arizona elementary school teachers make an average of $45,353, compared to a national average of $58,230. Utah teachers make an average of $70,000 and New Mexico teachers an average of $53,000, according to the report prepared by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University.
Arizona secondary school teachers make an average of $48,693 in Arizona and $60,320 nationally. Secondary teachers make $72,000 in Utah, $55,805 in New Mexico and $59,588 in Colorado.
Arizona secondary teachers make about 24 percent less than the national average. Schools would have to provide an $11,000 pay raise on average to catch up.
Arizona teacher salaries have actually declined since 2001 when adjusted for inflation — an 11 to 14 percent drop, the report concluded.
Still, other professions requiring a comparable amount of education and training pay much better, the report concluded. That includes averages for accountants ($67,000), civil engineers ($82,000), occupational therapists ($94,000) and physician assistants ($109,000). However, the teacher salaries represent a nine-month contract, compared to 12-month salaries for other professions.
“If we care about the success of every student, this is an issue we cannot wait to address. Arizona students deserve better than last,” the report concluded. “Investment in our teachers and classroom will impact our communities and everyone’s quality of life. Arizona should minimally work to move toward the national median.”
The Legislature last year for the first time since the recession put extra money into the school budget to provide a 10 percent teacher pay raise. The just-adopted budget includes money for another 5 percent, with another 5 percent installment promised next year. However, other states have also boosted education spending since the recession, leaving Arizona at the bottom.
Nationally, 8 percent of teachers leave the profession and another 8 percent change schools every year. The turnover rate’s twice as high in high-poverty schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Many rural schools have a high proportion of low income students.One widely quoted 2003 study found half of new teachers leave the profession within five years.
However, a 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics concluded the actual figure’s more like 17 percent.