School’s Out for Summer—But Teachers are Leaving for Longer

School’s Out for Summer—But Teachers are Leaving for Longer

Arizona’s public schools are in the midst of an ever worsening crisis. Our greatest assets—our highly-skilled and well-trained educators—are fleeing the profession in droves statewide.

According to a national NEA survey issued this Spring, a staggering 55% of educators nationwide are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than planned. This is a significant increase from 37% in the Fall, and is true across the board for educators regardless of experience of age. 

Arizona is seeing this play out in districts across the state, which are facing a much larger attrition rate than in previous years. Teachers are citing low pay and lack of support as the primary reasons for leaving the job they love. Put simply: after making it through the hardest 2 years of their teaching careers, teachers are done. 

Nearly 1 in 3 Arizona classrooms lacks a permanent teacher

Arizona, ranked nearly last in the entire nation for classroom funding, has sent a message to teachers that improper working conditions and unfair compensation is the norm. And the same politicians that have defunded education and created these conditions have fanned the flames of attacks on teachers, sending a clear signal that teachers are not appreciated or respected in our state.

“Students need teachers—permanent teachers—if they have any chance at regaining what was lost. It won’t be enough to throw money at summer camps and hope that kids will catch up. Substantial academic progress comes from…teachers who can get to know kids and how they learn, so they can tailor lessons that accentuate where they excel and shore up where they do not.”

This school year, nearly one-in-three Arizona classrooms lacked a permanent teacher in the classroom, leaving many districts and schools scrambling to accommodate the needs of their students. According to the September 2021 Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association’s report from Human Resource Professionals in Arizona Schools, almost 1,700 total teacher vacancies were reported based on an annual survey of roughly 135 participating districts. Almost 730 total teachers severed their employment by not reporting to work at the start of the school year, resigning mid-year, or simply resigning.

So why are so many of our educators making this difficult and often painful decision?

Pay is to blame

The answer is simple: our state, and more specifically, our state legislature has created an inhospitable environment that almost wholly discounts the time, talent, thoughtfulness and skill that educators invest in our students. These remarkable professionals who arrive for school each day to care for, nurture and educate our kids are being attacked by a state legislature that devalues them. Unfortunately, many lawmakers have abdicated their responsibility to invest in our teachers, community schools and students. 

According to Save Our Schools Arizona Network’s recently released report An Uneven Playing Field: Inequity Across AZ Schools, “Teacher shortages disproportionately impact high-poverty urban and rural schools, making it nearly impossible for the state to provide an equitable education to students.”

States all around the country—including Georgia, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Alabama—have made massive investments in teacher salaries this year, giving upwards of $5,000 and $10,000 raises across the board. These lawmakers understand the gravity of the situation, and know that teacher salary increases are critical investments in their states’ futures. Plus, it’s a big boon for voters, who overwhelmingly support increased pay for teachers. We at Save Our Schools Arizona are waiting for our state legislature to get the memo…

This is not the message to send our schools, students and educators, and it’s our job to right the course and ensure proper care for an investment in our incredible public schools. Arizona students cannot wait for investments any longer, and we cannot afford to continue to lose classroom teachers. 

Voters overwhelmingly support increased funding for public schools. And, as 2022 is an important year for midterm elections, politicians will try to convince constituents that they did such. But the numbers do not lie. Teachers are fleeing the classroom in droves and Arizona students are suffering the consequences.

It’s time for Arizonans to speak up. We MUST elect a new legislature this November that is #PublicSchoolProud! 

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