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(Flickr/US Department of Education)
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Arizona’s teacher shortage has reached ‘crisis levels,’ report finds

(Flickr/US Department of Education)

PHOENIX — The teacher shortage in Arizona has hit “crisis levels” as the number of educators leaving the profession each year has outpaced the number of education degrees produced by the state’s public universities.

According to key facts from an upcoming report from Arizona State University, 42 percent of state teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years, while 74 percent of school administrators said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.

The report, titled Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms, is set to be fully released in May, but a two-page brief released Friday found quality education in the state is primarily hindered by poor salaries.

“When adjusted for cost-of-living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation. High school teacher pay ranks 48th of the 50 states,” the report brief found.

Dan Hunting, a senior policy analyst with the university and the principal researcher of the report, said not having experienced and qualified teachers in the state hurts more than just students.

“Education drives everything. Qualified workers is the No. 1 driver of economic traction,” Hunting said. “If a third of our teachers are in the first three years of teaching, that means a large number of our teachers are not the veteran, experienced teachers who you’d expect to do a good job.”

Steve Seleznow, the president and CEO of Arizona Community Foundation, called teacher pay and support, the factors causing state’s teacher shortage, a “proxy for how highly we think of students and their education.”

“When we undervalue our educators, we under educate our children,” Seleznow said in a press release. “If we value the education our children receive, we must provide teachers compensation commensurate with those values.”

KTAR’s Tom Perumean contributed to this report.

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