PHOENIX - A newly launched program aims to increase the number of qualified teachers in Arizona K-12 public schools by providing a tuition waiver for participating students at the three state universities.
Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, first pitched the Arizona Teacher Academy idea in his "State of the State" speech in January. Tuesday, he announced 230 students enrolled for the first year.
"Teaching isn't just a job, it's a noble public service," Ducey said.
Aspiring teachers sign a deal to join the academy. For every one year they promise to work in Arizona schools, they get a one-year college tuition waiver.
Each public university has a option.
Arizona State University's program involves a traditional 4-year education degree.
University of Arizona is offering a 1-year, Master's level program for career changers who want teaching certificates.
Northern Arizona University will waive tuition through "Grow Your Own Education Degree" programs at community colleges across the state. NAU students could also choose a 1-year teaching certificate program.
"Tuition dollars that would otherwise be used inside the university will instead be granted to these people," Ducey said. "They can graduate debt-free, their tuition is paid for, and then there's a job waiting for them."
Local educators praise the Arizona Teachers Academy concept. According to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, 1,328 teaching positions went unfilled at Arizona district and charter schools this fall. The teacher shortage leads to bigger class sizes, which impact kids.
"With less personalized attention, there tends to be a lower increase in learning or student achievement," ASPAA President Jason Hammond Garcia said.
School administrators say state leaders must still fix the root cause of the shortage. Arizona's educator salaries rank near the bottom nationwide.
"Right now it's a teachers market," Hammond Garcia said. "Arizona has to become more competitive with pay, there's no way around that."