Last Updated on October 7, 2023 by SPN Editor
Arizona/ October 07, 2023 (SPN) | Teachers wanted in Arizona schools! A recent report has unveiled a concerning teacher shortage crisis in Arizona, where nearly one-third of teaching positions in both public and charter schools remained vacant just one month into the 2023-24 school year.
This alarming statistic represents the highest vacancy rate recorded in eight years of data collection on school vacancies in the state.
According to the report from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, 29.7% of teaching positions were unfilled in September, reflecting an increase from 26.6% during the same period the previous year. This teacher shortage has left a significant void, amounting to a staggering 2,230 vacant teaching positions within the initial weeks of the current school year.
Adding to the concern, the report also revealed that a substantial 53.2% of teachers currently in classrooms do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements. Instead, they are granted permission to teach through an alternative pathway.
Advocates and experts attribute this crisis to the state’s failure to adequately fund its educational institutions. Marisol Garcia, President of the Arizona Education Association, emphasized the urgent need for increased investment in schools, stating that the crisis will persist unless proper funding is provided.
A report by the National Education Association disclosed that in fiscal 2021, the average salary for Arizona teachers stood at $56,775. This placed the state as the 32nd lowest in terms of teacher pay across the country at that time.
Additionally, Arizona ranks poorly in per-pupil spending, with a Census Bureau report indicating that the state allocated only $10,330 per student in fiscal 2022. This figure places Arizona at the bottom of the list, ahead of only Idaho, among states for which data was available.
Beth Lewis, the Director of Save Our Schools and a teacher herself, highlighted the detrimental impact of teacher vacancies on student learning, particularly in low-income communities. She explained that these vacancies initiate a negative cycle. Teachers wanted in Arizona is a serious issue now since there are problems like parental dissatisfaction and insufficient support for students.
Justin Wing, the data analyst for the ASPAA, acknowledged that the typical vacancy rate has typically hovered around 25%. However, this year’s numbers have reached an unprecedented high. He underscored the need to address not only the vacancies but also the growing number of teachers hired through alternative pathways who do not meet standard teacher requirements.
Despite the challenges, Wing recognized that the alternative pathway opportunities provided by the state have been crucial in mitigating the crisis. However, he also noted that the root causes of the teacher shortage have not been fully identified or addressed at the national level.
Compounding the situation is Arizona’s new universal Empowerment Scholarship Account program, which provides cash stipends to parents who enroll their children in private schools. Critics argue that this program, which had enrolled over 60,000 students as of June and could reach up to 100,000 students, will create a budget deficit of $320 million.