Arizona’s teacher shortage isn’t getting any better, survey finds

Feb 15, 2022, 4:45 AM

(File Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)...

(File Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

(File Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — A new survey finds Arizona K-12 public schools are still struggling to find enough teachers to hire.

Nearly one-third of teacher positions remained open as of January, according to new data released Monday by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

“The trend continues,” Justin Wing, data analyst for ASPAA, told KTAR News 92.3 FM. “We’re still experiencing a large volume of teacher vacancies even in the middle of the school year.”

The association has been tracking the state’s teacher shortage since 2016. Its twice-yearly surveys have found that about a quarter of teacher positions remain vacant a month into each semester.

The latest survey finds 31% of teacher positions were unfilled as students returned from winter break this year. That’s up from about 26.6% last December.

The teacher shortage has left schools to find other means to provide coverage for classrooms.

“There are schools in Arizona where administrators or teacher coaches are having to be reassigned to get back into the classroom,” Wing said.

He added schools are also having to turn to individuals who became teachers through alternative pathways and don’t meet the state’s standard certification requirements. This includes college students who are studying to become teachers but have not yet graduated and subject matter experts who have certificates to teach.

The latest survey shows 47.7% of teachers on the job in Arizona fall under this category compared with 46.5% around this time last year.

Other efforts to get coverage for classrooms include loosening statewide rules for substitute teachers. The Arizona State Board of Education last month voted to get rid of the 120-day teaching limit for substitute teachers so they can stay at a school “as long as is necessary until a contract teacher is hired.”

Wing said efforts like these are helpful but do not address the root causes of why there’s a teacher shortage in Arizona.

“While I’m greatly appreciative of the short term solutions because it is necessary – it’s a severe crisis and you can’t just get out of it overnight – we need to as a state really focus on long term solutions,” he said.

ASPAA points to low teacher pay as one of the main reasons why the state continues to experience a teacher shortage.

Wing agreed. He said it’s “the number one root cause” coupled with working conditions that demand teachers wear many hats.

He noted that even with the recent 20% pay raises, Arizona continues to rank toward the bottom for teacher pay.

“That just kind of shows you how deep in a hole we’re in,” Wing said.

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Arizona’s teacher shortage isn’t getting any better, survey finds