Teacher shortage and rise in absences

Posted at 10:47 PM, Jan 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 00:47:43-05

PHOENIX — Overall, school leaders say their goal is to keep schools open but, an increase in absences might cause districts to go back to virtual.

“I don't think in good faith we should be on campus. We’re adding to community transmission,” says Theresa Pulido, a PXU teacher.

Theresa Pulido is a teacher at Phoenix Union, the largest high school district in the state. She says workforce shortages and student absences are straining their already-thin resources.

"I've heard that even our district staff is having to go onto campuses in order to substitute,” says Pulido.

The district says staff absence rates are about 16-percent, higher than their usual 10 to 12%.

Phoenix Union employees received an email Friday saying:

“While we strive to remain open for in-person learning, our teams are working diligently across the district to prepare in the event that a shift to remote learning is necessary.”

The district goes on to say massive workforce shortages, not community transmission, would be the deciding factor

“The blue are days that I’m booked,” says Donna Carrier, substitute teacher.

Donna Carrier has a packed schedule as a substitute, with so many teachers in schools across the Valley quarantining or out sick.

“We are in a critical teacher shortage right now and it’s not being dealt with at the governmental level, I don’t think. People are starting to acknowledge it now but, I don’t know what can be done. Nothing is being done so, I don’t know where we’re going but it doesn’t look like we’re heading in a good direction,” says Carrier.

Donna tells ABC15, Kyrene School District even recently raised their rate for substitutes to $175 a day, up from $115. It’s a pretty attractive increase since it’s a job in high demand. On top of hiring subs, districts are also pulling teachers from their “prep” period.

“That is when they grade, that is when they plan, that’s when they do the administrative work. More and more, it seems like, gets put on the teacher. That’s one of the things… I was a 28-year teacher and I retired a year early… that was one of the things. It just felt like constantly just more and more on the teacher,” says Carrier.