It’s been one week since Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an education spending package into law. The legislation promises to partially restore recession-era cuts made to education and give teachers a 20% raise by 2020. The plan put an end to a six-day walkout by tens of thousands of teachers, impacting nearly every public school district in the state, including Flagstaff Unified. KNAU’s Aaron Granillo sat down with FUSD Superintendent Michael Penca to discuss how the spending deal will affect his district.
Aaron Granillo: The recently passed budget includes about $300 million aimed at giving teacher pay raises. It also partially restores nearly $400 million that was slashed from education. Do you know yet how much FUSD can expect from this new influx of state money?
Michael Penca: Yeah, we’ve started to, you know, start crunching the numbers. Some of the way the funding comes is on a per pupil basis. So, the funding we receive is based on the students we serve – that current year funding. So, you know, I want to say this investment that we’re seeing in public education is significant. I mean it is more than we’ve seen in one year, you know, in this state in a long time. And so, for FUSD, we project the teacher pay raise amount is about $2.6 million that would come our way. And, you know, also seeing some restoration of the capital funding, you know, we’ve been drastically underfunded in that area. And, I’m very hopeful about the direction we’re headed in Arizona in public education and what we could do at FUSD to better serve our kids.
Because you brought up the teacher pay raises, one of the big promises from the governor is that every teacher in Arizona will receive a 20% pay raise by the year 2020. Is that something that Flagstaff Unified can guarantee as well?
We’re definitely – that’s our aim. And, because of, you know, student enrollment changes – those kinds of things – we may have to commit other funds, maybe out of reserve funds, to get there. So, we’re committed to following through with what these dollars were intended to do with our staff.
When can districts expect to see this money? I mean, is this this coming school year? First day of school starts, are teachers and support staff – are they going to start seeing the impacts of this spending plan?
Yeah, these funds are for our next fiscal year, which starts July 1. You know, we’ll be working now in the next weeks to negotiate with our employees and settle our contracts that are for the next school year. That will include these salary and compensation increases in them. So, yeah we’ll see results right away. And, we’re excited to see that we can start investing resources in quality people, paying them well, professional learning, good resources to do the job. I’m just excited and hopeful about where we’re headed in this state, where we’re head in FUSD.
As for the partial restoration of those funds that were slashed after the recession, are those dollars going to be more towards programs that have seen the most cuts in these recent years?
I think what’s been hit hardest are the instructional resources. So, that would be curriculum materials, workbooks, teacher guides. And then things like software that we use for instruction and also operations. And, that money just hasn’t been there. And, what we’re getting currently this year in this capital funding only pays for about half of what we use for just annual software renewals to run programs, to have kids to have the instructional tools. So, we’re excited to see some restoration of that. Obviously, we’d love to have what we deserve, what’s legislated. We’d love to have that back where it is, but we get that it’s going to take a little of time. But, we’ll take it.
What about support staff? That was one of the big demands of the #RedForEd movement. They wanted more competitive pay for teacher aides, cafeteria workers. Will they be seeing any more of an increase in pay?
We’re committed to, again, compensate all of our employees in a fair way. And, while it may not be at the same amount or percentage level as the teachers, we’re going to see what we can do to take care of everybody. And, so, you know, we understand that if we’re not compensating people fairly they’re not going to stick with us. And, we know our students deserve outstanding, committed, professional staff – that’s teachers and all staff. And so, part of that is being able to be compensated fairly and afford to live in this great community.