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Education tops Arizona voters’ list

by Expect More Arizona

Despite being near — or at, depending on the analyst — the bottom of the list for teacher pay nationally, Arizona’s voters continue to express the need for better K-12 education.

According to a December 2017 poll via education advocacy group Expect More Arizona, the majority of the poll’s approximately 600 likely Arizona voters agreed education is the No. 1 issue for the state. It is the third year the poll resulted in education being named top priority.
“In fact, education was named more than twice as many times as any other issue when voters responded to the opened-ended question,” Jennifer Hernandez, Expect More Arizona’s community engagement manager for Northern Arizona, stated, adding that 42 percent of respondents mentioned education.

“We are encouraged to see continued support from voters statewide for Arizona’s teachers and students,” Christine Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, said.

“Border issues and illegal immigration [16 percent], government spending/taxes [5 percent], the economy [5 percent] and jobs and wages [5 percent] rounded out the top five issues mentioned,” Hernandez stated.

According to Shannon Sowby, Expect More Arizona’s public relations director, 86 percent of Arizona voters believe that teacher salaries are too low.

Expect More Arizona’s analysis concludes that, when adjusted for inflation, the state’s elementary teachers make an average of $42,474 annually, compared to the national average of $55,800. High school teachers earn $47,890, compared to the national average of $58,030.

At Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District, a K-8 district, teacher pay ranges from a base salary of $32,320 to $45,080.

At Mingus Union High School District, teacher pay ranges from a base salary of $34,000 to $57,400.

At Clarkdale-Jerome School District, a K-8 district, teacher pay ranges from a base salary of $34,736 to $56,536.

At Camp Verde Unified School District, a K-12 district, teacher pay ranges from a base salary of $32,988 to $63,845.

At Sedona-Oak Creek School District, a K-12 district, teacher pay ranges from a base salary of $33,178 to $55,934.

“Asked to rate a list of items in terms of funding priorities for education, three of the top five highest rated items have to do with teacher pay,” Hernandez stated. “Teacher pay also far outpaced other education issues as the thing voters would be most willing to pay more in taxes to support.”

When asked to expand upon the matter of education, 31 percent of those polled cited budgeting concerns and lack of funding, 19 percent cited teacher salaries specifically and 8 percent cited teacher shortages.

Additionally, 72 percent of respondents expressed support for “extending and updating” Proposition 301.

Prop 301, passed in 2000, increased the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent, dedicating the resulting increased revenue to public education. 301 is set to expire in 2021.

Hernandez stated that support for increasing 301’s tax from 0.6 percent to 1 percent has support across all political parties.

“While these and other poll results clearly show Arizona voters care deeply about education, the state also has a meaningful tool to better understand where we stand as a state on teacher pay and other important education indicators,” Hernandez stated.

“[This can] drive our conversations about policy, funding and local initiatives to advance educational outcomes, strengthen our state and local economies and improve the quality of life for everyone who lives and works in Arizona,” Thompson said.

This article was originally published by the Camp Verde Journal on January 17, 2017, by Zachary Jernigan.

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