WHITE MOUNTAINS — Since the April 30 signing of state’s budget plan by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, school districts have been deciding how to distribute the funds provided by $400 million in additional education funding. The boost in funding followed on the heels of historic statewide teacher protests earlier this spring organized by the Arizona Education Association and the #RedforEd movement.
While the state has provided the funding, the actual pay raises and how they will be applied is up to each school district. The Independent is reaching out to White Mountain school districts, one-by-one to find out how they plan to disperse the funding.
Not all districts have finalized their pay increase plans. However, most expect to sign off and release the information before fall. It’s also important to note that most districts have already provided a $.50 per hour increase for classified staff as part of the new state minimum wage requirement.
In our continuing coverage of this issue, here’s the breakdown for how much additional funding for teacher pay was received for St. Johns, Snowflake Concho and Vernon school districts. The Independent has also received additional information from Blue Ridge and Show Low Unified school districts which we are including here. (For more information about teacher pay for those districts, see our coverage in the June 5 edition.)
Blue Ridge Unified School District (BLUSD) — “Blue Ridge will receive approximately 5.7 percent of the 10 percent promised by the State, said Superintendent Dr. Michael L. Wright. “That equates to about $440,000, versus the $800,000 promised. However, despite the shortfall the school board approved my request to honor the full 10 percent our dedicated teachers are expecting and deserve.”
Bus driver compensation was increased earlier this year district-wide and a majority of non-certified employees have already experienced pay increases during the 2017-18 school year said Wright. Finally, all Blue Ridge Unified School District employees will earn at least $12.00 per hour by 2020.
Show Low Unified School District (SLUSD) — “Show Low will have an increase of about $670,207 for teacher pay increases,” says Superintendent Shad Housley. “This provided an additional $210.70 per weighted student count to our budget for the upcoming 2018-19 school year.”
Show Low Unified School District monies will be distributed to teachers through an average increase of 14.42 percent, bringing the average SLUSD teacher salary to $51,626.59 for FY 2018-19.
St. John’s Unified School District
(SJUSD) — According to Superintendent Ed Burgoyne’s office, St. John’s will have an additional for $334,125 for teacher pay increases.
All teachers will receive a 10 percent increase to their current contract amount. This increase will be comprised of a $3,000 increase to the base pay and an additional amount added to equal a 10 percent raise.
Administrators and salaried employees will receive the $3,000 increase to their base salary only.
All classified employees will received a $.50 per hour increase.
Substitute teacher pay will be $110 per day and emergency substitute teacher pay will be $95 per day, Substitute aid pay will be $11 per hour.
Employees can expect to see their raises in July and August.
Snowflake Unified School District #5 (SUSD) — (The Snowflake District serves the communities of Snowflake and Taylor.)
Superintendent Hollis Merrell reported that on June 14, the school board allocated how the additional $515,506 from the state legislature would be used.
The total cost for teacher raises for FY 2018-19 will be $667,000 which is more than the awarded $515,506 for the Snowflake-Taylor District. “The district is committing additional funds above what the legislature and governor approved,” says Merrell.
For the 2018-19 school year, the certified teacher salary schedule will receive an increase of $4,000 which will bring the base salary for certified teacher to $35,000. The result is a 12 percent increase in the average teacher pay.
Raises will be applied during the 2018-19 school year.
Concho Unified School District (CUSD) — The Concho Unified School District received $141,129 in state monies to go towards teacher raises which allowed an annual increase of $2,070 per teacher.
Concho is one of the smaller districts within the White Mountains which is important to consider since districts with a higher student population received more funding. To put this in perspective, Concho Elementary has 174 students while Whipple Elementary in the Show Low district has 431 students.
Overall, the budget increase worked out to a seven percent raise for teachers at Concho Elementary and a $.50 per hour increase for classified staff,” says Yoder. “This increases the average base salary at Concho Elementary to about $35,000 per year … this is the third year in a row teachers at Concho have gotten pay raises,” he added.
The reason teachers are only getting a seven percent increase is because of other increases the school is absorbing including a five percent rise in insurance premiums and contributions to the state retirement system said Yoder.
Employees can expect to see the wage and salary increases July 1.
Vernon Unified School District (VUSD) — The Vernon Elementary School District received $34,092 in additional funds that will be used for teacher raises, according to Superintendent Dr. Monica Barajas.
That gives 11 teachers within the district $3,099 more this year, with three cents left over to spend as the school sees fit reported Barajas.
Vernon teachers will receive the increase in the fall.
Other districts — Alpine, Round Valley, Sequoia, Cibecue and Whiteriver school districts have also been contacted to find out what their respective districts have received in additional funding. Their responses will follow as part of The Independent’s continuing coverage of school districts in the White Mountains.
What’s lies on the horizon?
Some teachers and others that organized on behalf of the #RedforEd movement are gathering signatures for a ballot measure called the Invest in Education Act. The effort is intended to create a sustainable education funding source through an income tax increase on the state’s wealthiest residents. Education funding proponents fear that Gov. Ducey’s promises of increased education funding in future budgets are not supported by dedicated dollars, but rely on unpredictible economic growth.
Under the measure, the income tax rate will change from 4.54 percent to 8 percent for taxable income from $250,000 to $500,000 for individuals and from $500,000 to $1 million for families; and to 9 percent for taxable income above $500,000 for individuals and above $1 million for families, according to investined.com.
“Every little bit [of state funding] helps in the short term, but we need a more permanent solution,” says Concho Superintendent Steve Yoder.
“I think there is always room for more funding,” says Vernon Superintendent Barajas. “However, those conversations need to continue to take place with our legislators. As of now, we are happy and will continue to work hard to ensure our students have the best education possible,” she added.