There is a great deal of misunderstanding out there about teacher pay, school funding and the current financial crisis that we are suffering as a school district. I would like to try to clarify, a little.
The figures that are being touted on the news about “average teacher pay,” are figures from Phoenix that use an example of a teacher who has taught for 11 years, has a masters degree and the potential to make $46,000 a year (on paper). What the public may not know is that over 18% of that amount is never seen by a teacher (it covers benefits). Another 11% goes into a retirement fund that teachers HOPE will be there when/if they make teaching their life-long career. Then, there are taxes to be paid and the ever-increasing cost of healthcare. In Sedona, that same “average” teacher would make $37,600 before taxes and healthcare costs, etc. are removed.
Teachers work harder than most professionals. They work weekends, evenings and summers (taking coursework, planning and taking on additional jobs). The rewards ARE great when one sees children making progress. Teachers do NOT expect to be “rich”, but they should be able to pay rent and feed their own children, without having to work two additional jobs.
The personnel costs in a school district are the highest costs. Education is not a “business” that generates income. With funding in Arizona being the lowest in the nation, this is, unfortunately, reflected in teacher pay.
Declining enrollment in the school district is the major cause of our current financial crisis in the Sedona Oak Creek School District. Young families have to live in areas where they can earn a living wage and afford housing. This is becoming more and more difficult in a town like Sedona and is forcing some to leave. Yet, all students deserve a quality education. The students who are here deserve the best that we can provide. The schools in Sedona do what they can with very limited resources.
Here at Big Park our students have been thriving. They have received a very strong educational foundation and an introduction to the prestigious International Baccalaureate program. They have opportunities for multiple enrichments, afterschool sports, music and art. The culture at Big Park is one of caring, like a second family. Students learn about character and making good choices. The reason they do so well is the quality of the people who live and work here. We have great teachers and staff members. Our community steps up and makes it possible through volunteering, as well as providing financial and emotional support.
We do not know if Big Park Community School will be here a year from now and that is very difficult for everyone affected. Whatever occurs, we are sincerely grateful for all the love and support this community has provided.