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Union: Arizona educators want higher pay for themselves and other school staff

Educators with Arizona’s public school labor union say they agree with lawmakers that teachers need higher pay, but they want other staff to get raises, too.

In his State of Education presentations this week, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told lawmakers that teacher retention is alarmingly low. He suggested boosting teacher pay and disciplining students more strongly. 

Teachers with Arizona’s public school labor union — the Arizona Education Association — say they do need better pay, but disagreed on the discipline and on who needs the raises. 

The push to raise teacher salaries is something that Republicans and Democrats agree is important this year. 

Teachers are paid lower in Arizona than in most states, and, according to Horne, about 2,300 leave the state every year.

“Teaching was a proud profession — now it’s a starving profession,” education support staff Anna Badilla said. “Many teachers and essential support professionals like myself work one, two jobs along with their regular jobs.” 

Badilla and other members of the union don’t just want more teachers, they also want more education support professionals, security personnel, counselors, social workers and more. 

“She shouldn’t have to have three jobs so I can try to do one,” said AEA President Marisol Garcia, a middle school teacher, of Badilla.

She also spoke against Horne’s plans to increase student discipline, which he said is something schools should do to support teachers dealing with unruly students.

“What he's citing is teachers saying it's not just salary, but it's support, and support doesn’t mean kicking out kids who are having a difficult time in our classroom down the hall or out of the building. What we need is more adults,” Garcia said.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.