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Report: Low salaries keeping teachers out of Arizona classrooms

Teacher Seth Cohen poses in a classroom at Troy High School on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Troy, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

PHOENIX — A new report from the Arizona Department of Education said a lack of potential income is keeping teachers out of the state’s classrooms.

“The salaries for our teachers are not competitive compared to other states,” Charles Tack, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said. “We also see that, when you look across districts of different size and different location, that there are differences in the salary schedules.”

The Educator Retention and Recruitment Report said, while minimum wage jumped 53 percent between 2004 and 2013, the average teacher salary only went up 20 percent.

Tack said that there are steps that can be taken to funnel more money into teachers’ pocketbooks.

“The Legislature is looking at what type of surplus (in the Arizona budget) that we have, and there are proposals on the table that would bring more money to schools,” he said.

One such measure, Proposition 123, would allocate $3.5 billion of state land trust toward funding education to settle a lawsuit filed by schools. Arizona voters will be asked to approve that in an election in May.

The report also said that Arizona universities only produce enough teachers to fill about half of the open positions in the state.

Nationwide, nearly 50 percent of teachers leave the field in their first five years, the report said.