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Arizona program to address teacher shortage doubles in 2nd year

(Arizona Governor's Office Photo)

PHOENIX – Participation in an Arizona university program designed to address the state’s significant teacher shortage more than doubled in its second year, according to a new report.

The Arizona Teachers Academy had an enrollment of 464 students in 2018-19, up from 221 when it debuted the previous year, according to the Arizona Board of Regents.

Through the academy, students can have one year of tuition waived for each year they commit to teaching in Arizona public schools. They get a one-year grace period after finishing their studies to begin teaching in the state.

The Board of Regents is required by state law to prepare an annual report on the program. The 2019 report was released last week.

The board oversees the state’s three public universities, each of which runs its own program in the academy launched by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2017.

Arizona State University led the way with 276 enrollees and 116 completions in 2018-19, up from 146 and 87 the previous year, the report said.

Northern Arizona University, which has only a two-year program, had 160 academy students in 2018-19, up from 60, and its first 27 completions.

The University of Arizona, which offers only a one-year program, had 28 students and 28 completions in 2018-19, up from 15 and 15 the previous year.

In all, it’s expected that 273 students will have finished an academy program by the end of the 2018-19 school year, which includes the current summer session.

A vast majority, 95%, of current academy students planned to continue next year.

There were 120 teachers in Arizona public schools in 2018-19 who were part of the academy program, 106 from ASU and 14 from UA.

Nine ASU students and one UA student defaulted on their agreements and have to repay their waived tuition.

The 2019 state budget includes $15 million to expand the Arizona Teachers Academy. The program is expected to grow to 3,000 students, according to a press release from Ducey’s office.

During her successful run to become Arizona superintendent of public instruction, Kathy Hoffman called the teacher shortage “the biggest issue facing the state right now.”

A January survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that nearly a quarter of the state’s teacher vacancies remained unfilled and more than half of the filled positions were taken by educators who do not meet standard certification requirements.

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