Do the math and boost TUSD teacher pay

2013-07-08T00:00:00Z Do the math and boost TUSD teacher payJim Sinex Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

I have a thought experiment for those who care about public education, the Tucson community and our children.

Consider three teachers within the Tucson Unified School District:

One is new to teaching; the second has 10 years of experience teaching students within TUSD and the third comes to the district from outside with 10 years of experience.

Consider these teachers equivalent in talent and potential to our community.

The teacher that has dedicated her career for 10 years teaching children in TUSD is paid a base salary of $35,540 per year. This teacher does get a "longevity stipend" of $1,100 ($36,640 total).

The teacher that comes to TUSD from another district with the same amount of experience is paid a base salary of $39,940.

Now if you believe in equal pay for equal work, then you probably see the depth of this problem. It gets worse.

The teacher, new to teaching, is paid a base salary of $33,940. This means that 10 years of experience within TUSD is worth roughly $1,600 ($160/year).

A teacher from outside the district has 10 years of experience that is worth $3,900 ($390/year).

Thus, the gap between a teacher with experience within the district and one from outside far exceeds the gap between a new teacher and a TUSD experienced teacher who would probably end up mentoring both.

Good teaching requires community within the profession. Community requires fairness and equity.

Pay due to experience is far from perfect but it is accepted as fair and gives those new to teaching hope of advancement. It reflects an ethic where work is rewarded and the worker is valued.

The way teachers are paid within TUSD is directly opposite of that ethic.

Worse, those within district headquarters and our elected representatives have known about it for years, yet pet projects have taken precedence.

There is a solution and it comes from an important entity within the teaching profession.

The Arizona Education Association has a 6-to-1 record suing the state Legislature for violating voter-mandated or Legislature-legislated law.

The most recent lawsuit caught the Legislature ignoring law requiring an increase of funding for public education due to inflation.

Estimates are that TUSD should net $3.5 million to $4 million per year. So the money may be in the pipeline, but the Legislature doesn't give up on education cuts easily.

So, we can simply elevate each teacher to the mark where non-TUSD new hires are paid in regard to experience level. Anyone above the 10-year mark should get at least the 10-year non-TUSD salary.

Currently, 60 percent of TUSD's teachers are affected by this inequity and it would cost, conservatively, $2.5 million to end it. The plan is not perfect but it is a start.

What better way for a new superintendent to show good will?

What better way for a retiring superintendent to show a commitment to education?

What better way for an elected Governing Board to take a leadership role?

Jim Sinex is a science teacher at TUSD's Tucson High Magnet School and treasurer for the Tucson Education Association. Email him at James.Sinex@TUSD1.org

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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