FILE - Arizona teacher strike

In this May 3, 2018, file photo, teachers crowd the lobby of the Arizona Senate as the Arizona legislature debates a budget negotiated by majority Republicans and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey at the Capitol in Phoenix.

Teacher salaries in Arizona continue to lag behind the rest of the country, despite a multi-year plan adopted by lawmakers to increase pay by 20 percent over time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a study of teacher salaries by state and Arizona educators have seen no improvement in their placement. The pay rate of teachers in the state is currently 49th in the country.

While Arizona teachers have benefited from a raise that puts the median elementary school teacher salary at just over $44,000 a year, it doesn’t place them close to the national median average for the salary of a teacher. The national average is nearly $58,000. For secondary school teachers, the Arizona average is $48,700. The national average is $60,300.

Expect More Arizona, a statewide coalition of education advocates seeking to improve education for all students, is working to help change the perception of education in the state. Advocates are looking for “Targeted fixes and one-time expenditures (to) serve demonstrated needs of education, but they don’t get us where we need to be in the long-term.”

Expect More Arizona reports that “...high percentages of teachers are leaving the profession within their first few years and that rural and urban schools alike struggle to attract and retain quality educators.”

One idea being discussed is working with state legislators to increase salary bases. The 2020 budget, as passed by the Arizona legislature, includes a pay raise, spread across multiple years, for state teachers. While the increase is significant (20 percent), Expect More Arizona notes that “even when the full 20 percent increase is realized, it won’t be enough to close the gap between median pay in Arizona and the national median.”

Expect More Arizona also is advocating to “....create opportunities for meaningful professional development, high-quality mentoring, and induction programs, as well as student loan forgiveness programs for Arizona educators.”