ARIZONA — Arizona remains perhaps the worst state in the country to be a public school teacher, according to a recent national survey.
The findings help explain Arizona’s nagging teacher shortage, which has left teaching positions unfilled throughout the state despite legislative efforts to loosen teaching requirements and waive the need for credentials.
The 150 schools surveyed started the school year with an estimated 6,950 unfilled teaching positions, according to the Arizona School Personnel Administrator’s Association. At this point in the school year, 20 percent of those positions remain unfilled – roughly 1,440. Last year, schools had 6,230 unfilled positions at the start of the year, with 25 percent unfilled at this point, roughly 1,557 jobs.
The problem actually got worse as the school year started, after 300 teachers resigned, 81 never showed up for work and 63 simply abandoned their jobs
This year’s statewide 10 percent teacher pay raise has reduced the percentage of unfilled jobs somewhat, the study’s author’s concluded. On the other hand, the number of students enrolled in teacher training programs at the state’s three universities has fallen steadily.
However, schools have largely filled the gap by hiring people with emergency credentials or waivers, which means they haven’t completed training in classroom management and teaching methods – or they’re teaching outside their field of expertise.
“The severity of the teacher shortage must be addressed,” said ASPAA President Laura Elizondo. “Arizona leaders must make a collective effort to ensure the recruitment and retention of effective teachers through increased funding. A highly educated, skilled workforce is the cornerstone to a growing, thriving economy.”
last in working
conditions for teachers
The shortage in Arizona reflects the generally poor salary, security and working conditions for teachers in Arizona, according to a national study by Wallet Hub (https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-teachers/7159/).
The study ranked Arizona dead last on its list of “best states for teachers.”
North Dakota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Connecticut claimed the top five spots.
West Virginia, Louisiana, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Arizona placed last.
The survey took into account salaries, class sizes, turnover rates, job security, cost of living, teacher-student ratios, per-student spending levels, overall school system quality and teacher safety. In all, the study considered 23 factors. Arizona came out near the bottom on most measurements, including: 46th for teacher turnover, 51st for teacher-student ratios, 47th for public school spending per student and 49th for quality of the school system overall.
The survey noted that about 20 percent of teachers quit within three years of starting in the profession and half leave within five years. Teachers who leave their jobs or abandon their careers mostly say they feel “overwhelmed, ineffective and unsupported,” concluded the survey.
Education jobs remain one of the lowest-paying jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and continue to lag behind the inflation rate when it comes to salary growth.
University of Denver assistant professor Walter Fernando Balser said “the one common denominator we are hearing from teachers is that they are being asked to do too much. Put simply, we have been ‘piling on’ teachers for decades and we are now at the breaking point.”
Pennsylvania State University Associate Professor Edward Fuller commented, “the biggest issues facing teachers today are inadequate salaries, declining overall working conditions, high-stakes testing and accountability that does not accurately capture their work, the increasing number of demands made on teachers, a lack of time and too many policymakers and pundits who demonize teachers as lacking the intelligence and commitment to do the job well. In some cases, teachers face class sizes and student loads that are too large to effectively serve students’ needs.”
University of Tennessee Associate Professor Anthony Pellegrino commented, “a major challenge teachers face today is navigating the curricular mandates coming from policymakers – who are often out of touch with public schools – with meeting the needs of the learners these teachers work with every day. It puts teachers in a terribly difficult spot. Mandates and counter-productive policies leave them dismayed. Teachers are micromanaged in a way seen in few other professions. I can’t think of any other profession where those who work in the field are treated less professionally.”
Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org