Republicans think they have an answer to help with Arizona's teacher shortage

Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 22:41:31-04

There are more than 200,000 people living in Arizona who are certified to teach in our public schools, but only 52,000 certified teachers are actually in the classroom.

Arizona public schools are facing a teacher shortage.

According to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA), in January nearly 2,000 classrooms across the state did not have a teacher of record.

Teaching positions in more than 3,000 classrooms were filled using subject experts or student teachers.

"This is not a problem we can attack on one front and say we're done with this problem. We have to attack on every side," said State Representative and House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall.

Republican lawmakers are moving a bill which grants alternative teaching certificates to professionals who want to teach in charter or public schools.

Currently subject experts can teach in grades 6-12, but SB-1159 will expand it to K-12.

"This is not about dumbing down qualifications for teachers. This is about getting the best teachers. Making it easier to become a teacher for folks who have that heart for teaching," said State Representative Steve Kaiser (R), North Phoenix.

Chandler State Representative Jennifer Pawlik, an elementary school teacher for 17 years who now prepares future teachers for the day they'll take over a classroom, doesn't like the bill.

Pawlik and other democrats say there is more to teaching than subject expertise. Teaching socialization skills is part of the job.

"What life experience does one have to have to be considered an expert to teach kindergarten?" Representative Pawlik asks.

Supporters say the bill serves as a talent pipeline to help deal with Arizona's teacher shortage, while Pawlik says there are other answers for that.

"We continue to have the largest classroom sizes. We continue to have the lowest teacher salaries across the country. Surely that's impacting people's decisions on whether to teach in Arizona," Pawlik says.

Republicans in the House voted the bill out of the Committee of the Whole. It still needs one more vote before it passes out of the House.