The Problem with Teacher Pay in Arizona and One Possible Solution

Beth Maloney Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Social Issues, Uncategorized

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The Problem with Teacher Pay: As a beginning teacher, I knew I would start out with a modest salary, but with increases in experience and education, I expected to move up the salary schedule and eventually achieve a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

Veterans among our profession can remember a time when we could rely on a salary schedule that included annual raises and credit for years of experience and education levels attained.  Salary schedules rewarded teachers for advanced education and training, while yearly raises helped retain experienced, veteran teachers and kept up with inflation.  

However, during the recession, many district salary schedules were frozen, reduced, capped or eliminated and have yet to become active again a decade later.  Even districts able to offer increases to the salary schedule generally haven’t kept up with the 2- 3 percent annual inflation rate.


A Possible Solution: A Statewide Salary Schedule

I’ve had many conversations about this with friends and colleagues but it is rarely ever discussed as policy.  I’d like to bring it to the table as an item of discussion, especially as we begin to come together as teachers across the state.

A statewide salary schedule would equalize salaries across the state and guarantee a level of minimum pay based on qualifications and years of experience.  A fair statewide compensation model attracts and retains qualified teachers.  

A statewide salary schedule ensures a minimum salary a district must offer, allowing for local control.


No one goes into teaching to get rich.  But as my friend Matt pointed out, teaching is still a JOB, not volunteer work.  

We should be paid like the educated professionals that we are.

But the situation is dire.  Arizona is the worst in the nation for teacher pay.  We rank 50th in elementary teacher salary. Almost half of Arizona’s teachers keep second non-school jobs so that they can afford to teach.  The Morrison Institute Education Workforce Survey found that 42% of teachers work an additional job.  An additional 27 percent of teachers surveyed held second jobs in past, but not currently. The teachers I know do not have second jobs to buy luxuries like boats but to pay their mortgages and put food on their table.

More and more often, I hear stories of hopeful teenagers wanting to become third or fourth generation teachers.  Their parents show them the financial challenges that they will face and the sacrifices that they will need to make to be a teacher.  The aspiring teachers quickly change their minds and their majors.  How many potential future music, computer science, and physics teachers do we lose because teaching is no longer a viable profession that provides financial means to live in the middle class?

To add insult to injury, teachers compensate for inadequate state funding by using our own limited financial resources to buy supplies for our classrooms and students.  

That needs to end.

The solution is not throwing pennies at the problem by giving us $150 tax credits, but by adequately compensating teachers.  

Why I'm #RedforEd...salary is #1 for me, as it was with almost every #RedforEd post I saw

Why I’m #RedforEd…salary is #1 for me, as it was with almost every #RedforEd post I saw

Our families and our personal finances shouldn’t have to suffer because we work an important career we love.  Teachers are honorable, but we are not martyrs.


Lee Iacocca said, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.”

Our teachers have been settling for something less in our pay for many years.  We won’t have to settle for anything less for ourselves and our students if we stand together.


What do you think about a statewide salary schedule?



I am in my twentieth year of teaching and enjoy every minute of my time in the classroom. I have taught kindergarten, third grade, and currently teach fifth-grade science and social studies in Surprise, Arizona. I am an enthusiastic public school advocate. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a Candidate Support Provider for the Arizona K12 Center, where I coach and mentor other teachers undergoing the rigorous National Board certification. I am the past president and co-founder of the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network and president and founder of the Arizona Chapter of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. I am honored to be Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and appreciate having the opportunity to represent the teachers of Arizona. I love talking with and learning from other teachers around the world. I strongly believe that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students.

Comments 9

  1. Susan Collins

    I have seen a state wide salary schedule work in MS. The state has to fund the minimum salary schedule, the local supplement is up to the local district. I have also seen states that are similar to AZ in economics/demographics give incentives for teachers who go to rural areas: pay off student loans, housing stipends, National Board supplement FUNDED BY THE STATE! A quality education should not depend on zip code…Strong public schools EVERYWHERE makes our communities stronger and builds up our economy by attracting business and manufacturing.

    1. Beth Maloney

      Interesting, Susan. I have long advocated for a state-wide National Board stipend. That has been successful in other states.

      1. Susan Collins

        Absolutely. A state-wide stipend for NBCT would make our program explode and our students would get all the benefit!

  2. Jess Ledbetter

    I think this is such an important idea to consider to decrease teachers playing Red River among districts to get tiny bumps in pay. We need districts to have stability and teachers who stay. When I switched from my old district to my new one, I took at $1500 pay cut to be closer to home. Meanwhile, a neighboring district would have paid me about $10K more. I’ll be honest: I felt angry signing my contract. We had to really evaluate our priorities, but I wanted to teach where my kids will go to school. I’m still glad about the decision because I admire my school leader and feel that I’m contributing to my local community–but my family pays the cost with my paycheck.

  3. Donnie Lee

    I had a close friend in Tucson. We got hired at the same school and started our careers at the same time. We have taught the exact same grade levels. We both our National Board Certified and have Master’s Degrees. When I moved to Phoenix, I made $10,000 more than her right off the bat. I think statewide salary schedules and statewide recognition for years of experience is highly important to keep teachers in these hard to fill areas in our state.

  4. Yolanda Wheelington

    Thank you for sharing this. It prompted thoughts that lead to my current post in which I referenced this article. Regarding your article, I think this is another thing that can actually be done and have a positive impact of teacher retention without the need to ask for additional funding. It may (or may not) include consideration for cost of living in different areas (if there is a significant difference). Thanks again.

  5. Eve Rifkin

    I love the idea. How would this happen? Would it depend upon a state department of education? a governor who actually cares about education? Have other states done this? How?

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