Arizona teacher shortage continues

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services 

Arizona continues to have a shortage of teachers for the classroom.

And by some indications, the problem may be getting worse.

A new survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that schools were able to fill fewer than one out of every five vacancies they had for this school year. And 55% of those they did manage to fill were with people who are not actually certified educators.

This is the sixth year the organization has found a similar pattern. But Gov. Doug Ducey rejected the idea that things are the same as when they were when he took office in 2015.

“There’s a lot that’s changed since I’ve been governor,” he said.

“The focus on education has been in every state budget,” Ducey continued. And he specifically cited the average 20% pay hike given teachers.

But state schools chief Kathy Hoffman said it’s no surprise that the vacancy problem has remained relatively unchanged.

“One of the factors that has also remained consistent is that Arizona continues to rank 50th for teacher pay,” she said. Hoffman said that 20% pay hike “did not go far enough.”

“We needed a next step,” she said.

Hoffman said that could have been addressed in part by voter approval in November of Proposition 208. That 3.5% surcharge on individual incomes above $250,000 a year — $500,000 for couples — would have raised an estimated $827 in additional dollars, with half of that to hire teachers and classroom support personnel and to raise teacher salaries.

But the Arizona Supreme Court, ruling on legal challenges from some Republican lawmakers and business interests, have thrown the future of the levy into doubt.

And that financial issue, Hoffman said, is “overshadowing all of our efforts” to keep teachers in the classroom.

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