Arizona educational leaders propose best solutions to ongoing teacher shortage

A new survey shows Arizona has a 25% teacher vacancy at schools but state leaders can't agree on how to fix it.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 8:26 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona, like many other states, is facing a teacher shortage. And state leaders don’t agree on how to fix it. A recent Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) survey shows a 25% teacher vacancy at schools across Arizona. According to their research, it’s the seventh straight year this survey has found a teacher shortage in Arizona.

For Hector Campos, a first-year student in the Arizona Teacher Residency program at NAU, pursuing a career as a teacher is still a no-brainer despite all the obstacles. “When you see that lightbulb, when you see that smile it really just makes everything worth it,” Campos said. “You know you’re making that difference. You know that they’re looking up to you not just for the content you’re teaching or the subject that you’re teaching but also just becoming that role model.”

State Superintendent Tom Horne recognizes not all educators might be as willing to continue teaching in this current environment as Campos is. To fix the teacher shortage in Arizona, Horne says the two biggest priorities need to be increasing teacher pay and disciplining students that are causing disruptions. “I know that I wouldn’t want to teach in a circumstance where the administrators weren’t supporting me on discipline and I had to deal with anarchy in the classroom,” Horne said. “And I’m sure that’s true of the teachers.”

Horne says that discipline would mostly be resolved through suspensions or expulsions. He’s also looking into changing the certification procedures in the state to address the survey findings that 44% of teacher vacancies are filled by teachers that don’t meet the state’s standard certification requirements. “If they have good content knowledge, there should be a certain amount of mentoring for how to handle the class,” he said. “But we should have people with good content knowledge teaching our students.”

But Arizona Education Association president Marisol Garcia says instead of threatening punishment or changing the certification requirements, the priority should be on helping not just teachers but schools as a whole. “I want you to come to a school and see, it’s not just the principal,” Garcia said. “It’s the whole system that needs support.”

Garcia says the Educator Retention Task Force Governor Hobbs has recently set up to develop ideas to improve retaining teachers is a good step. “Getting people around the table that are solution-oriented that can tell you what they think they need to stay in the classroom,” she said.

When asked what Superintendent Horne thought of Governor Hobbs’ task force, Horne said his administration was not invited to these discussions, so he didn’t feel he could comment.