District Should Make Teacher Raises Priority

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In a capitalist society, how much we are willing to pay says a lot about our priorities.

In wages, we are willing to pay the most to doctors, lawyers and those in the business, real estate and financial arenas.

Meanwhile, our teachers -- those put in charge of the next generation -- struggle to make ends meet.

Two weeks ago, Governor Janet Napolitano (see story on page 1A) signed into law a budget that set aside $100 million for statewide teacher salary increases.

A portion of that money is currently available to the Payson Unified School District administration. Instead of announcing the amount local teachers can expect to see in their paychecks next year, the administration claims not to know when the money will be available nor how it will be used.

Meanwhile, administrators in other districts around the state have already begun announcing the teachers' raises.

We cannot understand why Mesa schools, for example, have been able to act, while our school district has not.

Teacher salaries should be a priority for our school district. After the most recent school year, 28 teachers either did not have their contract renewed or resigned. Several of those teachers left for other school districts with higher pay.

The rallying cry of the PUSD administration has always been, "what's best for the kids." In this case, we believe "what's best for the kids" is to have quality teachers who don't have to work second jobs to make ends meet.

Until three years ago, teachers took summer jobs, often with the Forest Service, to supplement their incomes. But when the school year was changed to a year-round calendar, a dent was put in our teachers' earning potential. Now, summer vacation begins on June 1 and ends July 20. With only a month and a half break, teachers can no longer take summer jobs.

This year, teachers received a 2-percent raise, but teachers must also pay into a state retirement fund and their required contribution just went up 1.7 percent. The 2-percent raise covers the retirement increase. In effect, teachers will see a .3 percent pay raise this year unless the district takes action with its new allocation of state budget funding.

We would like to encourage the district to make this its priority and to have teacher raises calculated by the July 10 school board meeting when they can be voted on.

Teachers must have a minimum bachelor's degree to work in our schools and through No Child Left Behind, teachers are required to acquire certifications in a variety of subjects in order to keep their jobs.

Let's compensate our teachers for their education and experience. Teachers are in charge of our most valuable resource -- our children -- and we should ensure we have the best in place. Just because a child lives in Payson doesn't mean he or she should get a lesser education than students in districts who are willing to pay more.

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