Supt. Horne’s keys to solving Arizona teacher shortage: Pay, discipline, student achievement

Aug 24, 2023, 11:29 AM

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, shown visiting a Valley classroom earlier t...

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, shown visiting a Valley classroom earlier this year, thinks pay raises would help reduce the state's teacher shortage. (X Photo/@azedschools)

(X Photo/@azedschools)

PHOENIX – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne says there are three elements to solving the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

“The first is we have got to pay our teachers more,” Horne told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Evening News on Wednesday. “No school is any better than the quality of the teacher in the classroom.”

Horne, who supports $10,000-per-teacher raises, said Arizona has been losing good educators to surrounding states that offer better wages.

“We can’t continue to do that,” he said.

How does approach to discipline affect teacher retention?

The second element, Horne said, is for administrators to provide better support to teachers in matters of discipline.

“Teachers cannot teach in a class if when they call the district office because of a student misbehaving, they’re told to use social emotional learning. That’s not a disincentive,” he said.

“We have to bring back discipline, and our administrators need to support our teachers in discipline.”

Horne said teachers who leave the profession often cite a lack of support from administrators as their top reason in exit surveys.

The third piece of the teacher shortage puzzle is academic achievement. Horne, a Republican in the first year of his second stint as state superintendent, said that is his top priority.

“We want to raise academic achievement for its own sake, but also I’ve seen statistics where schools that do very well have zero turnover because when teachers are really achieving and they see their students achieving, they want to stay. They’re having satisfaction of their work,” said Horne, who previously helmed the Arizona Department of Education from 2003 to 2011.

How big is Arizona’s teacher shortage?

The Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association tracks school staffing in the state and puts out reports twice a year.

The most recent report, released in February, showed that around 25% of all teacher positions were unfilled, with a shortage of nearly 3,000 teachers.

In addition, 44% of the positions were filled by people who did not meet the state’s standard teacher certification requirements.

How is Arizona addressing its teacher shortage?

Horne said rural areas, where officials “are just desperate to get people in,” have been hit hardest by the shortage.

“They’re trying to use substitutes, people that don’t have teaching credentials. It’s tough for them,” he said.

Recruiting efforts go beyond national borders, “as long as they can speak English understandably,” Horne said.

“I know of excellent teachers in Mexico, for example, and certainly in Canada, and so we have to do the best we can. And that’s one of our major objectives, is to work with the government to get to get them work visas so they can come and teach our kids,” he said.

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Supt. Horne’s keys to solving Arizona teacher shortage: Pay, discipline, student achievement