Arizona educator: 'I need a college degree to make this?'
Arizona is in the midst of a teacher shortage. Many schools and students are grappling with the consequences. What's behind the shortage? Republic reporter Ricardo Cano explains in this episode of azcentral Rewind.
Whispering Winds Academy teacher Elisabeth Milich posted a photo of her salary on Facebook. Her salary is $35,490 per year.
She works for the Paradise Valley Unified School District.
Milich posted the photo after seeing her expected pay raise for taking professional-development courses.
"This is my new pay after taking a few professional development classes," Milich stated in the post. "I actually laughed when I saw the old salary vs. the new one. I mean really, I need a college degree to make this? I paid 80,000 for a college degree, I then paid several hundred more to transfer my certification to Az."
Milich's pay stub showed she will make an additional $131 next year.
"I just posted it to bring awareness," Milich said. "When you see it in black and white and you see what your raise is, it is just laughable."
Last week, thousands of Arizona teachers and education advocates participated in the #RedForEd movement — wearing red to protest the low pay they say has contributed to a shortage of qualified teachers in the state.
The movement was in response to West Virginia teachers striking for higher pay. After a nine-day strike, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation to authorize a contract agreement with the state's 20,000 teachers. The deal included a 5% pay raise for teachers.
"My hope is that our state takes a hard look at this crisis. There are vacancies all over the state because they can't find teachers," Milich said.
The median salary for Arizona elementary school teachers in 2016, adjusted for cost of living, was $42,474, a 2017 analysis by Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy found. The median salary for high school teachers was $47,890.
Here's a breakdown of 2016 elementary school teacher salaries adjusted for cost of living:
50: Arizona, $42,474.
49: Oklahoma, $43,192
48: Florida, $46,653.
45: Colorado, $47,413.
40: West Virginia, $50,956.
36: Indiana, $52,701.
28: Utah, $54,814.
27: Nevada, $55,582.
26: Texas, $55,930.
19: New Mexico, $59,047.
9: Oregon, $62,621.
7: California, $65,370.
2: Connecticut, $70,156.
1: Rhode Island, $70,486.
Reactions to the Facebook post were mixed. Some were supportive and shared their own stories, while others criticized the post.
"I have a lot of people bashing or being critical of the fact that teachers only work for 9 months," Milich said. "People just don't understand what all goes into teaching."
Despite a 1% pay increase approved by the Legislature last year and an infusion of cash from ballot measure Proposition 123, teacher pay in Arizona remains among the lowest in the nation.
"I am proud to be a teacher," Milich said. "I am not proud to be a teacher in Arizona."
Contributing: John Bacon, USA TODAY. Follow Lauren Castle on Twitter: @lauren_castle