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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
1:15 PM Thu, Dec. 13th

Local teacher pay on par in state but state low in U.S.

Teachers in the Kingman Unified School District earn salaries comparable with their peers around the state, according to information compiled by the Arizona Education Association.

Salary schedules for the current fiscal year put KUSD teacher pay at $26,850 as a minimum with a bachelor's degree and $29,175 as the minimum with a master's degree.

Those figures are below the state averages of $28,060 and $30,294, respectively.

However, KUSD teachers are ranked 81st among 189 districts for the bachelor's minimum and 70th of 184 districts for the master's minimum in pay.

The AEA compiles data only for public education districts, not charter schools.

"I think it's good we're in the top half," said Linda Seifers, president of the Kingman Education Association, which has about 150 members.

"On the other hand, what we need to be doing is come up with a system to keep our teachers.

We're very concerned about turnover."

The figures for the KUSD are based on district enrollment of 6,887.

The statewide average is 4,163 students per district.

Lake Havasu, which also has a unified district, is below Kingman in teacher pay.

But that is not surprising as that district has just 5,479 students, according to the AEA data.

Teachers in Lake Havasu earn minimum salaries of $24,500 with a bachelor's degree and $26,750 with a master's degree.

To gauge how the KUSD stacks up in Arizona, look at the numbers for the districts just above and right below in student count.

The Pendergast Elementary District in Phoenix has 7,146 students this year.

Minimum salaries there for teachers are $30,500 for a bachelor's degree and $32,100 for a master's degree.

Sierra Vista Unified District has 6,196 students.

Teachers there earn $24,730 and $27,130 as minimum salaries.

KUSD teachers fall between their peers in Pendergast and Sierra Vista.

"We were all excited and happy to have one salary schedule in the unified district," Seifers said.

"We did not take a position either for or against unification, but we attended all meetings to find out its pros and cons."

The KUSD was created last July 1 when the Kingman Elementary and Mohave Union High School districts merged.

Seifers said meet-and-confer sessions with representatives from all schools met with superintendent Mike Ford last spring to discuss a salary schedule after unification took effect.

What was agreed upon was a compromise between what teachers sought and what the district could offer, she said.

While the figures for the KUSD look to be in line with other districts in the state, Arizona lags far behind the rest of the nation.

AEA information indicates the state slipped from 36th in average teacher salaries for 1999-2000 to 39th for 2000-2001, the most recent school year for which national data is available.

The national average was $42,917, while Arizona teachers averaged $36,302 during 2000-2001.

John Wright, vice president of the AEA, said the state is not keeping pace with the nation, even with approval of Proposition 301 by voters to increase teacher salaries.

That situation may not improve in the near future.

"I think there's going to have to be a change in the way Arizona looks at schools and the teachers we employ," Wright said.

"With the current state budget situation, there seems little likelihood of the legislature providing more resources for schools so we can compete in the professional marketplace."

Wright said the Governor's Task Force on Accountability and Efficiency in K-12 Education made some remarkable recommendations on teacher pay that could revolutionize the profession if they are adopted.

"They noted we're nowhere near being competitive for professionals," he said.

"The first step would be to move the entry-level salary to one comparable with other college- educated professionals in Arizona.

Right now, we're looking at salaries in the high 20s for new teachers, maybe in the mid-30s in five years, and possibly into the 40s 10 years down the road.

We have to keep moving the benchmarks."