Local Teachers Deserve Much Better Salaries


State Legislators spent the recently ended 100-day session haggling over the future of professional football in Arizona. While public education floundered for lack of financial support, the Legislature approved a $331 million stadium ballot proposal.

Unable to earn competitive wages in Arizona, the state's best university graduates are flocking to California, where most starting teacher salaries are $10,000 more per year and class sizes are limited.

Obviously, keeping professional football in Arizona is more important to the Legislature than the future of our children.

Arizona's per-pupil funding, one of the lowest in the country, has lagged more than 6 percent behind inflation for the past decade.

The Payson School District and every other school district in Arizona are struggling to find ways to pay for reasonable teacher salaries and keep top-notch educational and extracurricular programs in place.

With a salary schedule that ranks among the lowest 20 percent in the state, the Payson School District does not offer many incentives to attract new teachers or keep the experienced, talented teachers we already have.

Many PUSD teachers must work two jobs just to make ends meet. Look around. Educators are working part-time jobs everywhere in our community -- at Wal-Mart, convenience stores, the U.S. Forest Service and construction companies.

The Payson School Board's decision this week to improve the existing salary schedule by a few hundred dollars a year was a step in the right direction. But low teacher salaries continue to be the norm. Good, talented teachers who have made sacrifices to stay in a district they care greatly about are being shortchanged.

Many teachers in Payson say the district's current system for setting teacher salaries keeps the deck stacked against them. The district relies on a well-intentioned but ill-trained committee of teachers and staff members to sift through the district's budget and set priorities.

Teachers hold the key to our most valuable resource -- our children. They deserve to be adequately compensated for their contributions to our children and our future. If the state legislature is unwilling to help solve the school finance issue, local school officials will have to step up to the plate and prove that they've done their level best for their teachers.

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