What Phoenix-area schools are doing to fill 400+ teacher vacancies

Hundreds of teaching jobs are unfilled in the Phoenix area and school districts are using emergency certification to fill vacancies.
Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 5:45 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The school year is starting amid an ongoing teacher shortage. Just how bad is it? Arizona’s Family Investigates reached out to all 58 school districts in Maricopa County. Only 24 of them responded. Of those that responded, there were a total of 404 teacher vacancies. “It is a challenge to fill rooms, especially with qualified teachers,” Matthew Camacho with the Fowler Elementary School District said.

Each year, Camacho, the district’s HR director, said it gets worse. When asked if the district is in crisis, he had a simple response. “I would say yes,” Camacho said.

While 404 teacher openings across Maricopa County may sound like a lot, many districts stressed it’s an improvement over last year. The Fowler Elementary School District has 250 teachers and five unfilled positions. Camacho said it’s a big void. “The teachers that we have to emergency certify that come in don’t necessarily have that formal educationally program training,” he explained.

To help fill classrooms, the state allows those with college degrees but no background in education to work in schools under what’s called emergency teaching certificates. The Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association tracks teacher vacancies. They’ll have officials statewide counts in October. Their executive director, Dr. Barbara Goodwin, said she’s been talking to districts and has heard teacher retention for many of them has been better. Arizona’s Family Investigates asked her if emergency teaching certificates are being used more this year than in years past. “Yes, it is being used more,” she responded.

Mesa Public Schools, the state's largest school district, has about 40 teacher openings as it returns to the classroom this month.

The Tolleson Union High School District finds itself in a better position. They have close to 700 teachers and only five openings. Their starting salary is $20,000 more than Fowler’s. Still, they, too, use emergency certification. “We keep them on emergency certification temporarily until they can become fully certified,” Juan Ceja, the assistant superintendent of HR at Tolleson Union, said.

He explained about a dozen of their teachers are working under it. “I worry the long-term sustainability in our school district to continue to retain and recruit teachers because, eventually, the pool is going to dry out,” Ceja said.

Districts have also hired those pursuing teaching careers while still in college. Goodwin defended that change, saying they’ve taken classes on child development and teaching. She explained that they’re often better positioned than those receiving emergency certification.

See a spelling or grammatical error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.

Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Tell us about it by contacting us.