GILBERT, AZ — The Gilbert Public School District is asking dozens of laid-off teachers to come back to work.
Andrea Becker says she's already found a job in another district -- and not by choice.
"I don't want to keep moving around. You build relationships with your peers and your children, and I don't like leaving my kids," says Becker, a special education teacher.
Back in March, around 150 teachers received a reduction in force (RIF) notice. The district cited it was due to a large drop in student enrollment but just two months later, things have changed.
The district is now looking to re-hire as it is seeing an increase in resignations and some unexpected retirements. Contracts have been offered to 90 teachers for the next school year, and 54 have accepted so far.
"I think it's going to affect the teacher shortage. I am concerned, honestly, about Gilbert filling these open positions with the right teachers because the teachers that were asked back, are being asked back to positions they've never had before," says Becker.
Several teachers told ABC15 it's not an easy choice. Many are left wondering whether the cuts were based on poor performance or behavior due to a controversial scoring system school principals used.
"People have made comments like, 'Oh, they got rid of the worst teachers in Gilbert,'" says Becker.
One teacher who received an offer told ABC15: "Moving to another district would lower my pay, which would lower my retirement, which is a few years from now."
Another teacher said: "The job offers do not seem to have been selected with intention. I suspect that they were done with their lawyers and were an attempt to, yes, get teachers back, but be a solution to those teachers who were in the process of taking legal action and/or filing grievances."
An increase in resignations and retirements is actually a state-wide concern, on top of a teacher shortage.
As of December 2020, about 27% of teacher vacancies in Arizona remain unfilled and 47% have been filled by those who don't meet the state's standard certification requirements.
Officials say Arizona teacher pay remains one of the lowest in the country, even with the recent education budget increase. Meanwhile, Arizona has one of the highest class size ratios in the country.