Arizona teachers on Friday called for a big bump in their own pay after news that Gov. Doug Ducey had showered hefty raises to his own staff while approving only a 1 percent raise for teachers this year.
Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas called the raises demeaning to teachers at a news conference.
Thomas said there is a teacher crisis in the state caused by salaries at or near the lowest in the nation and suggested that a 20 percent hike in teacher pay would end that crisis.
"To see him hand out 10, 15, 20 percent raises for his inner circle, it's outrageous, it's demeaning and it shows a lack of leadership and decisiveness on the part of our governor." Thomas said.
The reaction from the teachers union comes days after an analysis by The Arizona Republic showed Ducey gave 44 of his staffers raises of up to 20 percent in the past 2 1/2 years.
Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said Friday that the Republic discounted promotions and increased responsibilities in its analysis and "presented a lopsided and distorted view of reality." He also defended hefty raises to department heads, noting that they were rewarded for exceptional performance.
The Republican governor gave the majority of his staff raises, promotion or both since he took office in 2015, according to the Republic analysis. For at least 40 employees whom the governor promoted, their salary increases ranged from 5 to 100 percent. The average raise for a Ducey staffer was 11 percent.
Ducey in January proposed a 2 percent teacher pay increase over 5 years, but eventually accepted a 1 percent increase for both this year and next year. Teachers note this school year's extra pay, about $400 for a beginning teacher before taxes, is being given as a bonus and not added to base salary.
Teachers at the news conference said they too have seen major increases in workload.
Marisol Garcia, an 8th grade social studies teacher at the Isaac School District in Phoenix with 13 years' experience, said she had no more than 27 students in her classes her first year in teaching. Now, she has up to 38 students in her classes on top of a host of new testing requirements.
"For him to say to us at the beginning of the state of the state, we're doing to take care of our teachers, we're going to treat them with respect, this is the most disrespectful thing you could do," Garcia said of the raises. She noted that some of Ducey's staffers got raises above $30,000 a year.
"That's more than new teachers are going to take home this entire year," she said.
Thomas acknowledged that boosting teacher pay could cost $1 billion dollars and it's unlikely the governor or GOP-controlled Legislature would raises taxes to provide that cash. He suggested a voter initiative is likely to get more money to classroom teachers.