Arizona has long been a state where education dollars are tightly budgeted. In the recently released Pubic Education Finances report from the United States Census Bureau covering the fiscal years of 2009-2014, Arizona only spent more dollars per pupil than Idaho and Utah at $7,529 in 2014-nearly $3500 less than the United States average.
Even in these conditions, Humbolt Unified School district is exceeding the state in graduation rate as well as language arts and science standards according to the Arizona School district spending report.
Much of this success can be attributed to teachers in the district who the report stated made about $4,000 less per year in 2014 when compared to the state average.
Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Daniel Streeter says, in addition to the rest of Arizona, the district has a crisis in attempting to attract and retain new teachers.
“Our teachers need to be compensated for the great work that they do,” Streeter said. “It’s time for the state of Arizona to truly put forth the investment of K-12 education.”
Realizing the need for a focus on education, Governor Doug Ducey recently offered a plan to invest money into the schools of Arizona. In Ducey’s 2018 fiscal year budget, $114,000,000 will be invested in K-12 education beyond inflation and enrollment growth.
Two hundred and four million dollars will be provided to teachers in the state over the next five years. That includes a $1,000 signing bonus for teachers who commit to working in low income schools-which Streeter said would most likely affect eight of the Humboldt district’s nine schools.
“This budget prioritizes K-12 education, especially our schools, students, and teachers in low-income areas who need the help the most,” Governor Doug Ducey said in a press release on the official Government website. “It responsibly utilizes the resources we have available to invest in education and expand opportunities for everyone in our state, including our most vulnerable citizens. Because of the responsible decisions made over the past two years and the support from voters to end the education lawsuit, we are on firm financial footing and have the ability to invest real dollars in areas where they matter.”
While Streeter was pleased with Ducey’s effort, Streeter wishes for more of a bump in teacher salary for the upcoming school year instead of the phased in plan over the next couple of years. Additionally, noticeably missing from the budget is capital dollars-which provides funding for new buses, books and maintenance repairs.
“I think there is a lot of discussion coming up with ways to fund schools, and I certainly appreciate the idea of incentives for innovation and creativity but right now schools in the state of Arizona are trying to survive,” Streeter said. “None of these creative proposals matter if we don’t have high quality teachers in the classroom and if we can’t fix a leaky roof.”
In the next couple of years, Proposition 301 becomes extremely important. The Proposition, which expires in 2021, was passed back in 2000 and put forth a portion of sales tax to education and teachers. If the proposition ends, it would essentially wipe out progress as Streeter predicts teachers could suffer a nearly $6,000 hit in salary.
“Certainly getting that reauthorized, (Prop 301) needs to be a focus for Arizona,” Streeter said. “If that was not reauthorized, that would be a significant reduction in teacher’s salaries.”
The investment in education by the state of Arizona is a positive trend for Streeter and Arizona schools but he believes there is need for more to continue making progress in K-12 education.
“I think really that just comes down to the leadership in the state making that investment in education,” Streeter said. “We are definitely headed in the right direction but we need to focus on teacher salaries and capital funding.”