Still Unsure How State Budget Will Affect Teacher Paychecks


Exactly what the new state budget's $100 million allocation for teacher pay and retirement will mean to local educator paychecks remains a mystery.

"We are waiting for the auditor general to notify us just how much we will receive," said Bobette Sylvester, Payson Schools Assistant Superintendent for Business Services.


Bobette Sylvester, Payson Schools Assistant Superintendent for Business Services.

"We are all anxious, but we don't know right now exactly how much we will receive."

Sylvester was expecting word from the state by yesterday, Monday, but did not receive it.

Once the auditor general does forward a dollar amount to Sylvester, it will be up to the school board to distribute the funds.

"We want to find out how to best use it," she said.

The money coming from the new state budget could be used to improve a teacher salary schedule that will feature a 2-percent increase next school year, pay mandatory increases in teacher retirement costs or fund other district needs.

Facilities improvements remain a possibility since that has been a year-long goal of district administrators and board members.

However, low teaching salaries in Payson, and around rural Arizona, has long been a problem in recruiting new teachers and retaining veterans.

Administrators have long stressed their frustrations about not being able to recruit teachers when going head to head with large Valley school districts that offer educators bigger paychecks and more perks.

Also, in past years, some seasoned teachers have left PUSD in order to teach in city schools where salaries are higher.

In PUSD, starting pay is $31,661 -- $37,000 for hard-to-find special education teachers.

Starting pay in some Valley districts for non-special education teachers can reach $35,000.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher organization, supports a $40,000 minimum pay for all public school teachers.

The new state budget has drawn praise from the Arizona Education Association, a state affiliate of the NEA, as a step in the right direction to improving teacher salaries.

President John Wright said, "This (pay raise) will ensure that not only will people not fall behind next year, but they will see some advance."

The state budget, passed June 16 by the state Legislature and signed by Governor Janet Napolitano, also allocates $125,000 for full-day kindergarten across the state in two years.

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