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New data shows more than 2,000 teacher vacancies in Arizona

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Posted at 1:03 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 21:30:01-04

PHOENIX — There are more than 2,000 teacher vacancies across the state, according to data collected by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA).

ASPAA, a group that represents human resources in Arizona schools, began surveying public and charter school districts across the state in 2015. The surveys are meant to gauge the number of teacher vacancies in Arizona, and how those vacancies are being addressed.

This year, however, ASPAA sent out a “temperature check” over the summer after hearing many districts were not receiving applicants for open teaching positions, according to Justin Wing, the data analyst and former president of ASPAA.

“More and more of my HR colleagues in different school systems around Arizona were contacting me and going, ‘Hey, have you heard from other districts? We have no applicants,’” Wing said.

ASPAA’s survey normally goes out in early September, and again in December. The intent, Wing said, is to share with “decision-makers in Arizona” how teacher vacancies are impacting schools at the moment, as school is in session. But with stories of few or no applicants for open positions, ASPAA wanted to see what the education landscape looked like before the school year began.

“The results are, there is still a teacher shortage. There's deeper concern of lack of candidates," Wing said. “There's a deeper, deeper concern that school is going to start with more vacancies than in the past.”

June’s data, which reflects responses from 136 public and charter school districts across Arizona, shows there are 2,272 teacher vacancies in the state. Of the schools surveyed, 59.6% of respondents agreed “that there will be more vacancies on the first day of school than in recent years.”

Wing, for his part, believes that is due to several factors. He says teacher attrition, as well as retirement, are always factors. But he also pointed to low pay, large class sizes, and teachers being spread so thin as other reasons the profession is struggling to hire and keep teachers.

“They're not just the academic instructor,” Wing said. “They're also the social worker, the counselor, the guidance person, the safety officer, the security officer. Heck, with the pandemic, they're the health official. You're wearing all those hats in one classroom.”

Caroline Carlson taught middle school in Arizona for six years, before moving to California two weeks ago. She, like other teachers ABC15 has spoken with, said income was a factor in choosing to pursue opportunities out of the state.

“I compared salary schedules and working in Arizona, I could be working 20 years and be making what, like, a second-year teacher makes here [in California],” she said.

Carlson and her husband, who is also a teacher, wanted to move closer to family members who live in California. The two want to start a family. And with the combined income of two teachers, in addition to the rising cost of living, the move made sense, even if it was difficult to leave a school and students she loved.

“I absolutely loved teaching in Arizona,” Carlson said. “I feel bad. I just love our students, too. And I'm like, they deserve high-quality educators. And those educators deserve to be paid well.”

ASPAA will send another survey to districts in September. Wing said he hopes more schools respond, as June’s survey was more of a “temperature check.”

“I know some already have shared that while there's a shortage in a lot of areas. Right now, probably in your business, too, right? But before COVID, it was not that case. But it was for teachers. So, if teachers were hard to fill three to five years ago, and now every job is hard to fill, that means teacher jobs are even that much [harder] to fill,” Wing said.