Teacher Shortages

Original article by Gabe Acosta

During the last legislative session, the Governor signed SB1042, which would expand and lower the eligibility requirements for one to become a teacher in Arizona. Now that the bill has been law for several months, we want to go back and judge its effects.

SB 1042 allows individuals with expertise in certain areas to obtain a certificate to become eligible to teach in schools about that subject. Those candidates bypass the state’s regular requirements to obtain basic or standard teaching certificates. For instance, someone with who worked as a biologist in the field would be qualified to teach biology in school without needing to take any teaching classes.

According to a new study out by the Arizona Republic, Arizona faces the following shortages:

133 school districts staffed positions with people who had not met the basic qualifications to teach, according to their certification.

In 75 districts, at least 25 percent of teachers lacked standard teaching certificates.  About 56 percent of schools with 10 or more teachers filled positions with people who held either intern, emergency or substitute certificates.

One district in Maricopa County filled more than 60 out of nearly 500 teaching positions this past year with teachers who had not completed a formal training program.

In a district in Pinal County, nearly half of 300 teachers were either under qualified or lacked standard certification.

http://www.azcentral.com

The main reason this bill was constructed was to deal with the teacher shortage that Arizona faces. It was thought that by lowering teaching requirements, Arizona might solve the problem.

Some people say that SB 1042 is not as bad as many have argued; that there doesn’t need to be a trade-off between expanding the teacher pool and lowering standards.

The bill … makes it easier for people who are leaving another profession to teach in grades 6-12. But those folks still have to have a bachelor’s degree or higher, or at least five years work experience, in the discipline they’d be teaching. That gets them out of having to take the content knowledge test. But they still have to pass a test on teaching fundamentals within two years. If not, their licenses get suspended – meaning they can’t teach in district schools until they pass. – Joanna Allhands, http://www.azcentral.com

However, even people who think SB 1042 is not as bad as seems point out that this does not deal with the underlying problem of the teaching shortage.

Those underlying problems still exist, according to the same Arizona Republic study,

Experts frequently place poor teacher pay and low education funding among the primary causes of the shortage. Median pay for Arizona elementary teachers is $40,590 per year, compared with $54,120 nationally. In 2014, Arizona ranked 48th in average per-pupil spending at $7,457, compared with $11,066 nationally. – Ricardo Cano, http://www.azcentral.com

The low pay that teachers receive in Arizona compared to other states has made out-of-state teachers hesitant to move to Arizona. In addition, Arizona graduates are going into more lucrative fields than teaching. Even the $40,000 median salary paints with a deceptively optimistic brush for those who are starting their careers, especially if those teachers get their start in rural areas. In the Arizona Central article, there is talk of a salary of $29,000 for those starting teaching in Gila Bend.

The problem is compounded by the aging teaching force in Arizona that is close to retirement. Also, according to a 2015 report by the Arizona Department of Education, more than one-fifth of the state’s teachers leave the profession in their first two years – before reaching the three to five years research says it takes for teachers to become effective. That report forecast 24 percent of the state’s teaching population would be eligible for retirement by 2018.

Even the 2% raise over five years that Gov. Ducey has promised could not stem the problem.

I believe that those who say that even if SB 1042 works as intended, the problem would still exist are right. If you believe that we must do more for our teachers, please contact your local representative and let them know that this must change.

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