AVONDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - It’s real, and it’s growing, the inability to fill teacher vacancies in Arizona, says Justin Wing with the Arizona School Personnel Administrative Association.

A survey released Thursday revealed more than a fifth of all Arizona teacher positions remain unfilled.

[WATCH: Avondale school district starts program to help with teacher shortage]

“That’s just it. There’s not one solution; it’s multiple ones. It’s hard and costly,” said Wing.

And although Red for Ed helped, it only helped lessen the pay gap teachers in Arizona face compared to the rest of the nation.

[RELATED: One year after Red for Ed, teacher shortage plagues AZ schools]

“I know we see 20% in three years. That’s quite a significant raise, but if you consider the last 10 to 13 years, even if you add the 20%, it’s pretty minimal. We were 49th in teacher pay. We are still 49th in teacher pay,” said Wing.

Filling vacancies have been left to the districts to figure out. The Avondale Elementary School District was the first to pilot a program bringing in Arizona State University students as teachers under the watch of full-time teachers.

[RELATED: Top schools in Arizona: What do they all have in common?]

However, they still started this year with 18 vacancies.

Superintendent Dr. Betsy Hargrove says students and parents would never know the difference.

“It’s satisfying for our teachers. They’re sharing expertise, working together and problem-solving and our students benefit from it,” said Wing.

[RELATED: Hispanics make up almost half of Arizona students but only 12% of teachers]

Not to mention the college students get paid for teaching where in years past it was considered an internship. Dr. Hargrove said they have already retained some of the teachers following graduation.

[RELATED: According to state data, largest and smallest Arizona school districts excel]

Right now, the average teacher salary in the state is $55,361, according to the Governor’s Office of Arizona.

[SPECIAL SECTION: State of Our Schools: The search for solutions]

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman’s released the statement below on the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) recent survey detailing the state’s severe teacher shortage:

“Newly available survey data from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) shows that for the fifth consecutive year, Arizona students and schools continue to be deprived of high-quality educators, with over 20 percent of teacher positions vacant. While our state has made modest improvements, many of our classroom positions are vacant because our state has not done what is needed to attract and retain talented educators. To solve this crisis, we need a sustainable source of funding for our education system, and we must meet the professional needs of our educational staff, teachers and administrators. 

“If we simply continue down the path we’ve been on, we cannot expect different results. That’s why the Arizona Department of Education has created two new positions that will focus specifically on innovative ways to recruit and retain highly qualified educators, like “grow your own” programs, mentoring networks and teacher residency models. If we are to be regionally competitive, Arizona must invest in the resources our educators, students and schools need to be successful – it is critical to our state’s future.”

 


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