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Arizona teacher shortage continues, with quarter of jobs going unfilled

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona teachers received 10 percent pay raises, with more to come, but it hasn’t been nearly enough to keep the state’s teacher shortage from extending to a fourth year.

A new study by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that nearly a quarter of the state’s teacher jobs remain open, and of the jobs filled, nearly half are staffed by teachers who don’t meet the state’s standard certification requirements.

It’s the first year of Gov. Doug Ducey’s “20 for 20” plan, which pledged to raise teacher salaries by an average of 10 percent this year, plus 5 percent each of the next two years.

Dr. Shaun Holmes, president of the organization, called the raises “tremendous” but said more needs to be done to end the teacher shortage.

“I think the problem is that we’re in such a deep hole in funding and pay to begin with that even the incredible budget increase that we saw last year is just not enough to overcome the financial deficit that we find ourselves in,” he said.

The study, based on data collected from 178 school districts and charter schools as of Aug. 31, found that 24.8 percent of teacher positions were vacant several weeks into the school year.

In addition, 47.9 percent of the filled positions were taken by individuals not meeting standard teacher requirements.

Holmes said there are a variety of reasons so many teachers haven’t completed the requirements.

“I think probably a lot of those numbers reflect people who are well on their way to meeting the full requirements,” he said. “As of the beginning of the school year, they haven’t yet.”

Holmes said the low wages combined with the rising cost of higher education have served to discourage college students from pursuing careers in teaching.

“Higher wages would absolutely help us out,” he said. “It’s just that we need so much more money in the system than we’re currently receiving.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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