PHOENIX — Incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman will need to hit the ground running soon after she is sworn in to office later this month. Arizona faces a teacher shortage crisis that not even the best effort of the #RedForEd movement has been able to stop.
A survey done for the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found 1,547 classrooms in Arizona had no teachers to start the 2018 school year. AZPAA also reports 663 teachers quit within the first month of school.
"I will always identify as a teacher," Karin Selchert says while she pats down the dirt in an open trench. Selchert doesn't teach anymore. She works as a plumber. Earning more than double the salary she made as a special education teacher.
Selchert says, "if you factored in everything from when I started my day to the time I left my classroom at the end, I'm like, ‘Wow, making less than minimum wage some days.’"
Despite the promise of a 20% pay increase by 2020, Arizona public school teachers still rank at or near the bottom when it comes to salaries. A Morrison Institute study reports Arizona loses more teachers each year than it produces at ASU, U of A, and NAU combined.
In a statement to ABC15, Hoffman said, "the benefits and pay that we provide our educators should reflect their value in advancing the future of Arizona."
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says he is fully committed to teachers and promises his budget will reflect his commitment.
Karen Selchert wants to believe the Governor, "I see a lot of good intentions," she says. But quickly added, "the #RedForEd movement can't afford to lose any steam this year. There is too much at stake for students and teachers."
Meanwhile, "Its a lot less drama," Selchert says of her life as a plumber. But as the mother of two school aged children, she knows what's at stake for her children, and the life she was forced to leave behind.
Incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released the following statement on the teacher shortage:
"It is no secret that Arizona's teachers are severely underpaid compared to the national average. Because of low wages and increasing work demands, Arizona is grappling with a stunning teacher shortage.To end this crisis, our state must invest in our public schools and prioritize our children's education. As an educator, I know that there are creative ways to bring more teachers into our classrooms. One such solution is offering paid maternity and paternity leave. This benefit would attract new educators to the profession and help keep our highly-trained, experienced teachers in the classroom. We can further elevate teaching by offering competitive wages for all teachers including support staff. Teachers work tirelessly for our students, families, and communities. The benefits and pay that we provide our educators should reflect their value in advancing the future of Arizona."