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As State's Schools Lose Funding, More Teachers Continue To Leave Classrooms

As the state’s public schools continue to grapple with a funding crisis, more teachers continue to leave the classroom.

In the first four weeks of this school year, more than 660 teachers resigned their positions — and another 400 just abandoned their jobs and didn’t show up to work.

That leaves more than 2,100 vacant teacher positions in schools right now and more than 2,200 positions filled by people who don’t meet standard teacher requirements.

Those are the findings from a new survey of 159 school districts, just released by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

Most of these positions are being filled by long-term substitutes, almost 900 of them. Then, there are almost 700 vacancies being filled by teachers who are working on what’s called a sixth-fifths contract where they don’t have any prep periods.

They’re being filled by foreign teachers who are here on visas, by administrators, and by creating larger classes and multi-grade classrooms and the list goes on.

Justin Wing — past president of the ASPAA, an organization made up of HR professionals whose job it is to fill teacher positions — said they started noticing this problem 3 or 4 years ago.

Then, they started doing these surveys of school districts and charter schools across the state to prove it. This latest report shows things aren’t getting better — they’re getting worse.

Teacher pay is always something that comes up when we talk about this issue, but what effect is this shortage having on Arizona’s students?

Jonathan Parker, an AP U.S. History teacher at Thunderbird High School in North Phoenix and the president of the Glendale Union Education Association, the teacher’s union in his district, talks about what he thinks of all this and what’s the effect of all of this on students.

Both Parker and Wing say their fear is that, even with all of the alternative methods districts are using to get teachers into classrooms, that without more people in colleges learning to become teachers, that well will dry up, too. 

Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.