Teacher vacancies continue to climb in Arizona

Students raising hands in classroom. (Photo by: Google for Education)


Teaching positions across the state of Arizona continue to be vacant due to teachers refusing low earning salaries and inadequate working conditions provided by the state.

To remedy these issues, last month Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and the State Legislature announced the budget for this coming fiscal year which is said to dedicate $400 million to K-12 public schools. This funding will include $34 million to complete the two percent salary increase for teachers which began last year.

Jason Hammond Garcia, former president of the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA), says Arizona teachers continue to feel “angry” and “demoralized” in response to the small increase in salary. He says that teacher vacancies continue to grow throughout the state.

Focus on education was the top priority of Governor Ducey and the State Legislature in the proposed plan of the 2019 fiscal year budget for Arizona.  The state is making “a step in the right direction” when it comes to bringing back and keeping teachers in Arizona, said Garcia. If the budget plan follows through, it will be the beginning of “several years of difficult time” to better education in the state and restore the number of certified teachers needed for Arizona schools.

A study conducted by ASPAA in December 2017 found that nearly 900 teachers severed their employment within the first four months of this school year. Nearly one-third of those educators just abruptly quit. The teachers were from 172 school districts and charter schools in Arizona.

Garcia says the number of teacher vacancies throughout the state is significantly higher than what was reflected through the number of schools surveyed in the study. Garcia believes that the number of teachers quitting in the first four months of this school year throughout Arizona must “no doubt surpass 1,000.” Arizona is at the worst point for teacher shortages, says Garcia.

Jason Freed is the president of the Tucson Education Association. He believes that in order for the state to keep educators in classrooms they need to do three things.

President Jason Freed of the Tucson Education Association. (Photo by: Blog for Arizona)

First and foremost, he says that teachers need to be paid higher salaries. In order to compensate for current low salaries, Freed says teachers are taking on second jobs and extra duties within their school. This includes teaching extra classes or after school tutoring to make more money. He says that teachers in Arizona are having to take on extra roles “because the [teacher] paycheck just in itself isn’t enough to meet their bills.”


Second, Freed says that schools and parents need to give educators more respect when it comes to disciplining students in the classroom.

And third, Freed says that Arizona schools need to provide greater support for teachers. Teachers “want the feeling of support from parents” as well as “support and appreciation from administration” while doing their job.

In May 2017, Ducey signed a bill which allowed for people with non-credentials to become teachers in the state. This bill gave clearance to anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any field to teach in Arizona schools, rather than requiring a background in teaching education. This led to over 1,000 under qualified educators being hired to fill Arizona school positions last year.

In a study called Teaching Salary Data by State from 2018, researchers found that educators in Arizona (ranked 43rd for education by The National Center for Education Statistics) are making an average salary of $49,885. The number one state in education, Massachusetts, pays its teachers a salary around $72,334 as New Jersey (ranked 2nd) pays roughly $68,797 and New Hampshire (ranked 3rd) pays about $55,599.

Professor Renee Clift, the Associate Dean of the College of Education at the University of Arizona, believes there is a difference between Arizona and other states when it comes to how state governments and schools treat their teachers. “There is a commitment to treating teachers well and paying them what they deserve,” said Clift.

Clift moved her family from Illinois, which is ranked 20th, after receiving a job at the University of Arizona. Her husband, an Elementary school teacher, was making over $55,000 in his teaching position prior to their move. Clift says her husband was making “a salary that very few teachers in Arizona will ever make” when he was a teacher in Illinois.


Jessica Prettyman is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at jprettyman@email.arizona.edu.


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