Signs that Arizona’s public schools are in trouble—and that the state’s Republican leaders are not doing enough—seem to be appearing at an alarming rate. Most recently was the news that a national study rated Arizona the least attractive state in the country for teachers.
The Learning Policy Institute’s research shows that Arizona has the highest state-wide turnover rate and that nearly a quarter of Arizona’s teachers will be eligible to retire by 2018. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association’s voluntary survey reported more than 8,000 openings among 130 of Arizona’s school districts this year.
But, while it’s no longer surprising that our state ranks so badly in so many measures of quality education, the problems facing our schools are still shocking. Arizona has faced teacher shortages for years. And House Democrats have been trying to solve that problem for years. This year, we proposed creating a new teacher mentoring program, instituting teacher retention bonuses and restoring $116 million in K-12 funding that Republicans cut in 2015. Republicans rejected every one of those proposals.
Tucson Unified School District’s Superintendent, H.T. Sanchez, whose district is currently facing nearly 170 vacant teaching positions, said of the problem, “If that’s not shocking people right now and encouraging people to get out of teachers’ way and let them do a good job, then I don’t know what’s going to wake folks up.”
Neither do we. We don’t know what might ultimately convince Legislative Republicans and Gov. Ducey to do more for public schools. But House Democrats are going to continue fighting for public education—for the nearly one million students in Arizona’s public schools and their teachers—at every opportunity because our state’s future hangs in the balance.