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How much do Arizona teachers really make?

Apr 20, 2018 by AFP

(Posted by Tom Jenney, 19 April 2018)

Here is the link to the Auditor General’s report:

Let’s use Tempe Elementary School District as an example.   To find Tempe ESD in the district-specific report, go to pages 370-1 (pdf pages 382-3).

You’ll see that according to the AG’s analysis, Tempe in SY 16-17 spent 52.1 percent of its funds on “Instruction” (which is defined in a box on pdf page 15 of the report).  That’s less than what peer districts spend on average (54.1), and less than the state average of 53.8.  And it’s less than the 55.7 percent Tempe ESD spent on instruction in 2001, before Prop 301.  For the failure of school districts generally to put a greater proportion of funds into classrooms after Prop 301, see the chart on pdf page 17.

For total per-pupil spending for Tempe ESD in SY 16-17, go to page 370 (pdf page 382), bottom left corner.  You’ll see that Tempe ESD was at $11,299, which is much higher than the peer average of $9,373 and higher than the state average of $9,653.

The $11,512 per-pupil revenue figure for Tempe ESD (middle right side of the same page) is much higher than the $8,523 per child in revenues received by charter schools (see the info about the State Superintendent’s report, below).  However, it is also significantly higher than the tuition at many private schools.  (For example, the tuition at my children’s private school is roughly $4,000 less than the total revenue Tempe Elementary gets per student.)

As for teacher pay, look on the middle right side of the page.  You’ll see that Tempe ESD has an average teacher salary of $40,899, compared to a peer average of $43,084 and a state average of $48,372.   Please note that the teacher salary amounts do NOT include benefits, which would take a $48K salary up to more than $60K in total compensation.

Across the state, there are big differences in teacher pay that appear to be unexplainable by anything other than deliberate choice by district boards and administrators to shift monies from instruction to other operational areas.  For example, the Alhambra Elementary District is considered to be a peer district by the Auditor General (see Appendix A at the end of the report for the groupings).  Alhambra pays its teachers an average salary of $58,362 ($17,000 more per teacher than Tempe) while having revenues per pupil of $8,562 (almost $3,000 per child less than Tempe).

In another example, Gilbert Unified School District has an average teacher salary of $51,125, on total per-pupil spending of $8,363, while Paradise Valley Unified School District pays the average teacher $48,299 on total per-pupil spending of $10,143 — despite the fact that Gilbert appears to have a younger teacher population.  And the teachers in Pendergast make an even better salary of $53,818 on even less per-pupil spending of $8,188!

You can learn more about the shift in spending in recent years from instruction to other areas in pdf pages 17-19 of the AG report.   You can also learn more about the wide variance in spending, and some of the factors involved, in the explanation beginning on pdf page 21 of the report.  (By the way: when a school district’s spending gets down into the charter school range, AFP-Arizona tends to not weigh in against that district’s budget override measures.)

The amount of teacher salaries paid for by Prop 301 monies also vary widely across the state (see the middle right side of the first pages for districts in the AG report).  I was in Casa Grande recently and pulled the CG High School District numbers: they reportedly get $11,667 dollars of their salary money from Prop 301 — much higher than the state average.  They also pay their average teacher just under $50,000 — in an area that arguably has a lower standard of living than most of the state.  Some of that may be due to the fact that CG has a low percentage of teachers in their first three years — 13 percent compared to a peer average of 22 percent, and compared to 17 percent for the state as a whole.

Another thing to ponder is the difference between “instructional” spending and how much actually goes to teacher compensation.  In Tempe, the $40,899 salary is paid for by 3.6 students at $9,373 in per-pupil spending.  The entire compensation package of roughly $50,000 is paid for by 4.4 students.  And yet, Tempe officially has 15.1 students per teacher.  Which would suggest that only 30 percent of the total money for a classroom of 15 students is getting to the teacher, rather than the official 52 percent for “instruction.”  To give Tempe teachers a $10,000 per year increase in compensation, the district would only have to take the resources associated with one student (i.e., seven percent of total available resources in an 15-student class) and shift them to teacher compensation.  In a classroom of 40 students, it would take a shift of only three percent of total resources to make that happen.  A low-salary district’s unwillingness to shift $10,000 per year into the average teacher’s pay appears to be purely a political/management problem within that district (though efforts to shift a lot more money would eventually run into roadblocks caused by state and federal spending mandates on siloed funds).

A final caveat: the teacher pay figures in the AG report are averages.  Teachers at the lower end of the union (“association”) pay scale are making much less.  Teachers nearing retirement are making much more.  That pay is largely awarded in districts without regard to (greatly varying) performance and talent of individual teachers.

Below is the link to the annual report from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.  PDF page 8 of Volume I has the total ADM and PDF page 10 has the total revenues from all sources for all districts — and for charter schools.  Later in Volume I (starting roughly page 60) are the “current expenditures” per district.  In Volume 2 are the district-specific pages.

The Goldwater Institute’s Matt Simon has a recent article that does some side-by-side comparisons of teacher pay and district per-pupil revenues:

Who Is Really Responsible for Teacher Pay?

Also, here is a decent center-left take on the dueling estimates of teacher pay:

Kwok: Is Arizona teacher pay 28th, 43rd or 50th? Actually, all 3 are true 

Finally, here is a very thoughtful analysis from the Arizona Tax Research Association about the unique factors impacting teacher pay in Arizona: