by David Safier
So, the TUSD board voted for a total of $4.4 million in raises for district employees. That's a serious chunk of change, but it wouldn't be quite as serious if our schools weren't starved for funds. Every spending decision is going to be about robbing Peter to pay Paul — putting off spending for one aspect of the district that really needs money to spend in another — when the legislature insists of robbing our children of the money it takes to educate them. And I mean "robbing" literally. Our Republican-led legislature has been stealing from our schools to the tune of $317 million a year. And that doesn't even factor in our long-standing near-lowest-in-the-nation spending per student, which isn't thievery per se. It's more like a perfectly legal moral failure.
Forgetting whether you think the money is well spent, let's take a look at that $4.4 million and see how much it comes to, Tucson-wise. Here's a math problem for you. How much would each Tucson adult have to pitch in to cover the $4.4 million in employee raises?
Before I give you the figures you need to work out this little story problem, just make a quick estimate in your head, a ballpark figure: $20 per Tucson adult to cover the $4.4 million? $50? $100? More?
Here's the whole story problem, put in good math textbook form. "Tucson has a population of about 600,000, of which about 400,000 are adults. How much would every adult have to contribute to TUSD to cover the $4.4 million in raises it gave to its employees?"
Let's see. Ignore the 600,000 figure, that's just there to confuse you. Divide 4,400,000 by 400,000, and you get . . . $11. That's the answer. Eleven dollars a year. Less than a dollar a month per adult to cover all those raises.
Now let's move the problem out of a 4th grade math book and into the real world. We know the cost wouldn't be split evenly among all income groups. People who make $100,000 or more would probably pay somewhere between $30 and $60 a year — $3 to $5 a month — and low income Tucsonans would pay a few dollars a year, at most — a few cents a month. It's penny ante stuff on a city-wide scale.
Here's an extra credit problem, moving from the local to the state level. "How much would it cost each adult in Arizona if we wanted to raise the salary of every teacher in the state by $1,000 a year? Arizona's population is about 6 million, and about 4 million of those are adults. The state has approximately 60,000 teachers to educate its 1 million public school students."
Don't peek if you want to figure the answer out yourself. For the rest of you, it comes to about $15 per year per adult to give every Arizona teacher a $1,000 raise.
But we can’t afford to increase our teachers’ salaries, even though most of us agree that teachers are underpaid, even though the cost of a salary increase to each Arizona adult is reasonably small, because “RAISING TAXES, BAD!” “LOWERING TAXES, GOOD!” It don't take no book larnin' to figger that one out.