TUCSON, Ariz. - One graph shows Arizona ranks 48th in state education spending, another shows it ranks 43rd in teacher compensation, and then there’s one that shows Arizona ranks 50th in teacher pay, if you adjust for the cost of living.
Where Arizona ranks in these categories often depends on what statistics you’re interested in, who compiled the numbers, and who compiled those numbers.
Studies and surveys differ about where exactly Arizona ranks on issues like funding or teacher pay, but many studies place it consistently near the bottom.
Those 48th and 43rd rankings come from the National Education Association which uses some data from the U.S. Census and are based on information from 2015 and 2016.
The ranking of 50th in compensation comes from a study completed in May of 2017 by the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University.
Researchers there compiled average salaries and compared them to the cost of living in each state and found that Arizona teacher compensation ranked last.
“Not a single Thanksgiving has gone by in my family when my uncle hasn't reminded me that I can be making more money in literally any other profession,” said Amber Gould, a high school teacher.
Gould was part of a lineup of speakers at an Arizona Education Association press conference Wednesday.
The AEA often cites Arizona’s low teacher pay and funding as a reason many teachers move out of state.
A counter to that argument has emerged in 2018. The Arizona Education Project has launched a state-wide media blitz. The group says it wants to tell more positive stories about the state of education in Arizona.
“Too often the good news gets drowned out by a drumbeat of criticism and negative voices,” said spokesperson Matthew Benson.
AEP has produced television ads highlighting increases in student achievement, like test scores. Benson conceded that the state has room for improvement when it comes to school funding but said that isn’t the whole story.
“We can do things to spend the resources we have more effectively, we can do things to innovate, and we can do things to talk about the great work that is happening in our schools already that gets too little attention,” he said.