How Bad Is Arizona's Teacher Shortage?
Summer break is winding down and students will soon return to the classrooms. But will there be enough teachers to educate Arizona’s estimated 1.1 million public school students?
Education experts say the answer is no.
“There are far too many classrooms in Arizona that won’t have a full-time teacher in front of them when school starts in a few weeks," said Tracy Benson of the Arizona School Boards Association, who calls the shortage “critical” and estimates there are more than 1,000 vacancies in Maricopa County alone.
“Not only are we experiencing shortages in remote and rural Arizona where that has been the case for some time, but now in many of our urban areas we’re also experiencing an extreme teacher shortage," Benson said.
The Arizona Department of Education reports that in the past five years, thousands of teachers have left the state.
According to U.S. Census Bureau Statistics, the average salary for teachers lags behind nearby states as does the average money spent per student on education.
Benson said average teacher pay of about $50,000 per year — with a starting salary hovering around $30,000 — has a lot to do with the shortage.