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As AZ Teachers Strike, Economists say Reasons are Obvious

In a recent vote, nearly 80 percent of Arizona teachers said they wanted to strike rather than accept Gov. Doug Ducey's proposed plan to boost salaries. (Katherine Davis-Young/Public News Service)
In a recent vote, nearly 80 percent of Arizona teachers said they wanted to strike rather than accept Gov. Doug Ducey's proposed plan to boost salaries. (Katherine Davis-Young/Public News Service)
April 26, 2018

PHOENIX, Ariz – Public school teachers across Arizona plan to walk out of their classrooms Thursday to demand higher wages and better funding for schools.

The latest economic research suggests teachers have valid reasons to feel left behind. Arizona teachers make just 63 cents on the dollar compared to other workers with college degrees.

That's the largest gap in the nation, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, where Lawrence Mishel is a labor market economist.

"Teachers' wages have really lagged behind that of other workers with similar amounts of experience and education,” says Mishel, “and we find that to be true even when we include the fact that teachers get better benefits."

Gov. Doug Ducey has proposed a plan to get teachers a 20 percent pay raise within three years, but the educators say his plan doesn't offer wage increases to other school staff, and doesn't restore other school funding or provide enough details about how raises would be paid for.

Ducey has said he doesn't want to introduce new taxes or reverse any of the corporate tax breaks he's put in place since taking office. He hopes low taxes will stimulate economic growth and bring new revenue to the state.

Mishel says there's no evidence to suggest corporate tax cuts pay for themselves. But he notes well-funded schools can attract businesses.

"People want to come into a state where they can get a workforce that can adequately deal with advanced technologies,” he says. “But the other thing is that any executive moving to Arizona wants a place where her children can go to a good school."

Mishel acknowledges that no one likes to pay higher taxes, but says funding public education is one of a state's main responsibilities – and that requires a solid tax base.

Katherine Davis-Young, Public News Service - AZ