Dec 12, 2022 - Politics

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox proposes $6,000 compensation increase for all teachers

Illustration of a very large pencil filling out a check.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Gov. Spencer Cox proposed increasing every teacher's compensation in the state by $6,000 when he unveiled his 2024 state budget plan last week.

Why it matters: If approved by the Legislature, it would be the largest teacher compensation increase in the state's history, Cox told reporters during his news conference at Centennial Junior High School in Kaysville.

By the numbers: The $200.7 million proposed investment would provide every Utah teacher a $4,600 salary increase and a $1,400 boost in benefits.

  • In Utah, the average starting salary for a teacher is about $48,000 per year.
  • Overall, Cox is proposing a $1.5 billion investment in education.

Between the lines: The proposal comes after the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst reported a budget surplus of $1.3 billion for 2022, according to KUTV.

  • Teachers could see the proposed raises by the end of June 2023, Cox said.

What they're saying: "We love our teachers. They have sacrificed so much over the past few years. They've taken on so much, and one way we can award them is by paying them more," Cox said.

  • In a statement, Renée Pinkney, president of the Utah Education Association, the state's largest public education employee association, applauded the proposed salary increases.
  • Mike Kelley, the association's communications director, told Axios that Utah still lags behind other states when it comes to teacher compensation and class sizes. "Salary helps, but there are other things that need to be considered," he said.

The big picture: An increasing number of states are raising teacher salaries due to budget surpluses and low retention rates.

Yes, but: Such salary increases should target high-performing teachers or be used to hire hard-to-fill positions in special education or sciences, Thomas S. Dee, an economist and professor at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education, told The New York Times.

  • "I think it's a good idea to pay teachers more in light of inflation, and in light of what they've been through in the last couple of years," he said. "But I really see a missed opportunity in terms of elevating the teaching profession and improving teacher effectiveness," he said.

Catch up quick: During the 2022 legislative session, Cox threatened to veto a $36 million school voucher bill and said he would not support the measure until teacher salaries in the state started at $60,000 per year.

  • "I'm all in on vouchers, but we have a long way to go before we get there," Cox told reporters in February. "I can't wait to get there, but now is not the time."
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