Teachers Receive Raises

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On Aug. 14, the Payson school board approved raises for teachers.

Superintendent Sue Myers' recommended the issue of new contracts, with two-step salary schedule increases, to returning certified staff members.

The new contracts were given to school principals Thursday and were to be distributed to teachers at each of the district schools.

Myers said the raises are retroactive to the start of the school year and teachers should receive the increases by the Sept. 15 payday.

Moving up two-steps on the district salary schedule is similar to receiving two years teaching credit or two jumps in post graduate education hours. Salary schedules financially reward teachers for seniority and furthering their education.

The raises were the result of an additional $100 million in the state budget that Gov. Janet Napolitano signed in July.

The money was to be used for all-day kindergarten in every school around the state and for pay increases to teachers, custodians and other staff members.

Payson instituted its all-day kindergarten at the onset of the school year, but the salary increases teachers were to receive has been in a two-month limbo.

At issue was how much the district would allocate to teacher raises and whether that amount could be paid out this school year.

A law firm used by the Payson district said an attorney general's decision was needed to decide if the money could be given to teachers this year.

Myers said Goddard has now decided he would issue an opinion, but not until after the Arizona School Board Association meeting in September.

"So, we took a leap of faith and went ahead and issued new contracts," Myers said.

From the governor

Although Napolitano pushed for the money to be used for teachers' salaries, the final state budget did not mandate that school districts use the money for that purpose.

Some districts have used the money to cover other expenses, which has raised the ire of several public officials, including Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett.

"The Legislature's intent was for the budget increase to be used primarily for teacher pay increases this coming year," he said.

Sheenae Shannon, of the Arizona Education Association, said the teacher's union "was aware of the situation" in which state budget monies were not being spent on teachers salaries as they were intended.

Myers has said that PUSD allocated as much of the new money as it could to teacher pay increases, after paying about $200,000 for all-day kindergarten.

"Including all the fringe benefits, the raises cost (the district) $430, 313," she said.

Around Arizona, teacher pay boosts have sharply differed, Arizona Education Association statistics show.

Teachers in the Florence and Peoria Unified School District and others received no increase from the extra money.

Some teachers, however, saw significant raises in pay, including those in Deer Valley where an original 2.4 percent pay increase was raised to 6.4 percent after the governor signed the budget.

With 9 percent increases, Chandler teachers enjoyed the biggest boost.

Before the PUSD budget was finalized, teachers were to receive a 2 percent increase, which would have served to offset the 1.78 percent boost in teacher retirement costs.

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