May 9, 2017

Dear Rep. Lawrence,

It has come to our attention that you believe local community leaders elected to serve the best interests of their students and public schools, not the Legislature, are to blame for Arizona teacher salaries that are the lowest in the nation for elementary school teachers and second lowest in the nation for high school teachers.

We’re concerned about teacher salaries, too. The impact of low pay on the profession is now so bad that Arizona has moved from a teacher shortage to a teacher crisis.

But just as you, Rep. Lawrence, are “getting really tired of those who cry out for teachers,” as you shared with a constituent recently, locally elected school boards are “getting really tired” of being made the scapegoats for the Legislature’s failure to provide for the basic operational needs of school districts. This includes additional permanent funding to meaningfully increase teacher salaries.

As your message to your constituent accurately pointed out, school boards do determine teacher pay, but we do so with the very limited funding you and your colleagues at the Capitol provide us with.

You see, that is your job. The Legislature is to provide the level of funding to meet the needs of public schools – which includes paying teachers. It says so in the Arizona Constitution. Most Arizonans know that, which makes shifting the onus to school boards a poor strategy for dodging your responsibility.

As you know, since you’ve had the opportunity to vote on the state budget for the past three years, the prevailing voices at the Capitol – yours included – have cut $4.56 billion in operational and capital funding from our public schools since 2009. (We’re “getting really tired” of that, too, by the way.)

An Open Letter to Rep. Jay Lawrence dist-cuts-including-possible-301-loss-v1-1024x422Cuts of such magnitude have made it nearly impossible to provide teacher raises. We acknowledge that the basic annual inflationary increases Prop. 123 has restored are going to help, but they were never meant to solve a teacher crisis that ongoing state underfunding has created. To be clear, inflationary funding is meant to cover basic rising costs in things like curricular materials, electricity, employee health insurance and such. These days, we’re also using them to try to rebuild from those billions in cuts we’ve weathered.

We understand that it would be difficult for you to own up your role in this history of failure to provide additional funding for teacher salaries, but we must insist that you not blame school boards.

Sincerely,

Dr. Timothly L. Ogle
Executive Director
Arizona School Boards Association

View Jay Lawrence’s response to ASBA below:

An Open Letter to Rep. Jay Lawrence JLawrence