by Elizabeth Troutman
About a quarter of teacher vacancies across the state remain unfilled in 2021, with 55.4% of the vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet the state’s standard certification requirements, according to a Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association survey of 145 school districts and charter schools.
This marks the sixth consecutive year of teacher shortages in Arizona. Approximately a quarter of teacher vacancies have remained unfilled a month into each school year since 2016, ASPAA’s press release said.
Twenty-six percent of teaching positions were open a few weeks into the school year, a 6% increase from the 21% vacancy rate in 2019, even though there were 400 less positions to fill this year than in 2019. As of Sept. 10, 2021, ASPAA counted 1,698.67 vacancies in its Oct. 12 report.
The use of long-term substitutes and those with pending or emergency teaching certificates also increased. There were 762.6 vacancies filed by long-term substitutes, a 45% increase since 2019. The number of teachers with pending or emergency certificates increased by 22%. A total of 3,633.5 teachers do not meet standard requirements.
Seven hundred thirty teachers resigned after school started in the fall, 303 more than in 2019. The majority of teachers who ended their employment met certification standards.
ASPAA said that Arizona needs to address the reasons youth aren’t entering the education field.
“These results reinforce the need to increase funding for public education,” the press release said. “Arizona teacher pay remains one of the lowest in the country, even with the recent education budget increase.”
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told The Center Square that Arizona teacher pay needs to increase.
“While the Governor’s 20×2020 plan was a much-needed infusion of new money for salaries, it simply did not go far enough,” Hoffmann told The Center Square. “Until we have regionally competitive pay for our educators, all of our teacher recruitment and retention efforts will be overshadowed.“
“Though COVID has presented new issues and obstacles for those who are considering the profession or considering whether they will continue in the profession, we maintain that pay remains one of the most paramount reasons the candidate pipeline has diminished,” Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources of Deer Valley Unified School District Jenna Moffitt told The Center Square.
Teachers in Arizona have been promised increased funding in recent years with major allocations being enacted, but an analysis by the nonprofit Goldwater Institute says school districts didn’t increase teacher salaries in proportion to the increase in per-pupil spending.
“Compared to the more than $60,000 increase in funding available per class of 20 students, average teacher salaries have gone up just $4,500 per teacher (adjusted for inflation),” the report read.
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Elizabeth Troutman contributes to The Center Square.