PHOENIX — Phoenix elementary school teachers are preparing to have significant pay cuts to their salaries as federal grant funding is set to expire by the end of the school year.
Nicole Goodwin was one of many teachers who qualified for a pay bump through a federal grant program back in 2013-2014.
As a first-grade teacher at Whittier, within the Phoenix Elementary School District, she had worked as an educator long enough and met a performance standard to get a bonus.
“I’ve been teaching first grade for 18 years; I feel like I’m kind of good at it. To be asked for a pay cut when you keep getting better and better at your job, I don’t know where else you’d be asked to do that,” said Goodwin.
The federal grant titled, Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership, was slated to run from 2014 to 2017.
However, the district said it was able to continue funding the program for two more years. It’s now set to expire at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
“It costs $2.4 million to sustain this program each year. There are no funds remaining from the years in which we participated in the grant that allow the district to continue to program,” according to a district statement given to ABC15.
Goodwin says she expects to see an $8,000 pay cut to her annual salary.
“I’m being asked to choose in between, this money, going to a different district or going to a different state and losing the community I’ve built at my school. I’ve been there for eight years. I know a lot of the families,” said Goodwin.
The district estimates 171 Phoenix elementary teachers, which make up about 30%, will see an average annual pay reduction of around $5,000.
The school’s governing board is now left to restructure payroll.
A proposal would raise the salary for about 65% of certified staff by $1,500 annually.
Hourly support staff would get raises of as much as $1.76 an hour as minimum wage is increased.
Some teachers can't help but point out the timing of the grant funding running dry.
“This is coming at a time when the cost of living in Phoenix rose by 9% in the last year,” said one teacher at a February 24 board meeting.
The district said it continuously notified teachers about the pay reduction.
The base salary for Phoenix Elementary School District teachers will still be well above the state teacher salary, which is at $54,814. The average teacher salary for Phoenix is $64,724, according to the district.