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Amid a Teacher Shortage, Gov. Ducey Loosens Teacher Requirements

Amid a Teacher Shortage, Gov. Ducey Loosens Teacher Requirements
May 16
15:05 2017

It has been well documented that Arizona is it the midst of an education crisis. The Grand Canyon State ranks near the bottom of spending-per-student and has some of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation.

The lack of funding has coincided, or even to some extent caused, a teacher shortage across the state. Number released during the 2014 school year showed that 62% of the state’s school districts had unfilled teaching positions. Arizona also sports one of the nation’s highest turnover rates and with a good chunk of the teacher workforce eligible to retire in 2018, the shortage shows no signs of stopping.

Due to a lack of teachers, tens of thousands of teachers were hired on emergency or temporary credentials to meet the needs of the districts. Hiring under qualified teachers is not the most desirable option, but when districts are faced with the alternatives, they often have no choice. Districts can increase class size, cancel classes, or use short-term substitutes to try and alleviate the stress caused by teacher shortages; however, those solutions provide no long term answers and they lessen the quality of education.

In response to the shortage, the Arizona legislature earlier this month passed a law that would change the rules and qualifications for who can become a teacher in the state. Senate Bill 1042 allows individuals with expertise in certain areas to obtain a particular certificate to become eligible to teach in schools.

While bypassing the regular requirements to obtain basic or standard teaching certificates will get more teachers in the classroom, opponents of the legislation say that the bill will lead to lower teacher standards and do nothing to improve the education quality in schools.

Opponents also are quick to note that the legislation will benefit high school students, who have a curriculum where real world experience may be helpful in certain subjects, but will do nothing for the vacancies plaguing elementary classrooms.

Critics also say the issue of unfilled classrooms won’t ultimately go away until the Legislature fixes the abysmal pay teachers receive. On Monday, Governor Doug Ducey signed the FY2018 budget which adds $163 million for K-12 schools above inflation and provides a permanent raise for teachers. The 2% raise for the state’s teachers will take place over two years and $68 million is set aside for that purpose.

Will that 2% be enough to keep qualified teachers in the classroom? If not, Governor Ducey may be forced to loosen teacher requirements even further.

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