Arizona GOP unveils ballot measure sending school funds directly to teachers

Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, speaks outside of the Arizona Capitol. By Cameron Arcand / The Center Square contributor

By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

Noting a trend of growing administrative spending and teacher pay lagging those increases, Republican lawmakers want to require school districts to revert more of their allotted state funding directly to educators.

In a Monday announcement, several GOP lawmakers touted the “Teacher Pay Fund” plan they say would deliver K-12 public school teachers an average pay hike of 7% without increasing taxes.

They would do so by renewing Proposition 123 years before it’s required to do so in 2026 by introducing a ballot measure in January. This would put the renewal measure up for a vote in November 2024 and take effect in the summer of 2025 if successful.

“This initiative will allow Arizona to be more competitive in teacher salaries, boosting teacher pay in Arizona above the national average, and making a big increase to starting teacher pay,” Senate President Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said in a news release.

Other Republicans said the taxpayer funding the state has sent schools isn’t getting into the classroom.

“Republicans have led the charge in dedicating billions of new dollars to K-12 education, on top of Prop 123 funds and inflationary increases, but unfortunately, not enough of those dollars are getting into our classrooms or to our teachers,” said Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. “Arizona teachers right now make about $56,700, on average. This proposal will increase teacher pay to an average of over $60,000.”

The cost of the increase, according to multiple news outlets, would be $300 million.

The state’s teachers union was cool to the idea, saying all school personnel should be seeing higher pay.

“For one thing, any effort to increase educator pay should include not just classroom teachers, but also education support professionals,” said Arizona Education Association President Marisol Garcia, noting counselors, librarians, paraprofessionals, and bus drivers would not be included in the GOP plan.

The second half of the 56th legislative session begins in January.

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.