TEMPE, AZ — Kyrene School District announced it will be using new state funding to give all employees a pay increase this school year.
Thursday marks the start of the school year for the district in Tempe, and the start of Kinora Hernandez’s 32nd year of teaching there.
“To be very honest, it's been a long time since I’ve been energized to start a school year,” she said. “It’s the first time in probably three years that I’m excited.”
The pandemic, staffing shortages, and high inflation have thrown challenge after challenge at our educators.
Hernandez said she was thrilled to see the state invest more money in our schools after the Arizona legislature passed a budget last month with a large enough increase in education funding.
“I think it shows that we're finally giving education priority, and, unfortunately, we need funding to make sure that we can do our job appropriately,” she said.
The district already had approved a 3% increase for all employees for the upcoming school year, plus an additional 65 cents per hour for employees in the lowest wage tier.
Now, with the additional state funding, they added to those increases with an extra 4% pay raise for all teachers and administrators, and a two-dollar per hour boost for all support staff. For many employees, the district said, that will be an increase of more than 10%.
Kyrene School District, like many organizations across the country, said it has faced staffing challenges, particularly among support staff, which include bus drivers, teaching assistants, office staff, and other critical personnel.
This is the highest pay increase Kyrene School District Executive Director of Talent Management Lisa Gibson said they’ve had in 20 years.
“We had such a shortage of support staff coming in the past couple of years to work, mainly because of the pandemic, but, hopefully, that [sic] this increase will help our support staff feel valued and appreciated,” Gibson said.
Hernandez said she feels it will help her start a new year off strong with her students.
“By giving education a priority, it's showing respect, it's showing value, so that we can do the job that we signed up for,” Hernandez said. “We didn't sign up for the money. We signed up to support our students, but that comes with funding so that we can help our students.”
The Kyrene School District said it is still looking for middle school teachers and resource teachers for this school year.
The district also offers retention stipends up to $2,000 beyond regular rates of pay for certain employees.
If you’re interested, head online to learn more.