A new report by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU states that more than 1,3000 Arizona classrooms are without a permanent teacher, and low salaries are the main problem.
Arizona’s median pay of a secondary school teacher is only $48,020 compared to the national median pay of $55,800. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this puts Arizona worst in the nation for primary school teacher salaries, along with being 48th for high school teacher salaries.
A recent survey found that about 526 teachers quit this school year, with 42% of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 leaving the profession within three years. Nearly three out of four administrators said their schools face immense teacher shortages — 1,328 vacant positions to be exact.
A teacher shortage is an immense problem for public schools, seeing as how half of the public school workforce is teachers, leaving the other half as guidance counselors, speech therapists, nurses, and other staff.
Along with low salaries, “retirement, disillusionment, and a feeling of lack of support” are additionally cited in the report as reasons for the mass shortages.
Mallori Holck just recently resigned after teaching third grade for six years. She told Arizona’s Family that her class size had reached over 30 students. As her class size continued to increase, so did feelings of pressure and frustration.
“In the third grade, if they don’t pass reading, they’re not moving on to fourth grade,” she said. “It all falls back on the teacher.”
Save Our Schools is a grassroots volunteer organization that has urged Gov. Ducey to increase education spending. Unfortunately, the 2018 state budget falls short.
Dawn Penich-Thacker, a Save Our Schools Arizona representative, said students in classrooms oftentimes have a new substitute teacher every day without permanent teachers.
Arizona lawmakers proposed a 2% increase for teacher salaries, as well as an ASU partnership with the state to create the Arizona Teachers Academy. This program will allow the university to pay the tuition costs for students who choose to pursue a career in Arizona public schools.
“If they make that commitment, we’ll make this commitment: Your education will be paid for,” Ducey said at the kickoff event for the Arizona Teachers Academy in September. “A job will be waiting. And you will be free of debt.”
The program brought in 80 students for the 2017-18 school year, and they hope to increase their numbers to 400 by 2022.