PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- Arizona's newly minted schools chief warned lawmakers on Monday that the state's on-going teacher shortage is, "nothing short of a crisis."
Kathy Hoffman's comments come as recent numbers show a large number of teacher vacancies for the fourth year in a row.
"Schools only function with the hard work of our teachers. But year after year, we have seen a devastating number of teachers leave the profession and move out of state," Hoffman said during her first State of Education Address at the Arizona legislature.
Hoffman, who assumed the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction last month, also told state leaders that the problem could get worse.
"What's more, in the next two years, twenty five percent of Arizona's educators will be eligible to retire," Hoffman said.
Nearly a quarter of Arizona's teaching positions were vacant at the start of the school year, according to a study released two months ago by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.
According to the education group, this is fourth straight year of the teaching shortage.
The survey of 211 districts and charter schools also highlighted 913 teachers abruptly quit or resigned within the first four months of the current school year.
"This teacher shortage has a real impact on our students' and our state's future," Hoffman said.
The shortage, said Hoffman, leaves Arizona students behind the rest of the country in the subjects of science and math.
For example, Hoffman said there are only 150 certified physics teachers in Arizona.
"How can we expect our students to become engineers, scientists, or doctors when we are not providing them access to physics, calculus, or other high-level STEM coursework?"