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New report finds teacher shortage persists in Arizona

A new report by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association (ASPAA) finds that the state’s teacher shortage continues to persist.

The report found that as of September 2021, 26% of unfilled teacher positions remained vacant a few weeks into the school year. Another 55% of vacant teacher positions were filled by individuals who don't meet standard teacher requirements. That means only 19% of vacant teacher positions are filled with individuals with education degrees from colleges and universities.

These findings are not ideal, said Justin Wing, past president of ASPAA.

“Theoretically you would want the vacancies to shrink and the alternative pathways to shrink meaning you’re hiring those who went to college to become a teacher," he said. 

But Wing has found that school districts are increasingly targeting individuals who are looking for a career change in their recruitment efforts since that has become the largest pipeline for applicants as the ASPAA report shows. Wing said he thinks these alternative pathways have their advantages but he's also concerned about districts' overreliance of them. 

“My worry is that the pipeline will shrink and at some point there’s going to be less people, especially with the number of jobs that are available right now in this job market," he said. 

The report also found that 730 Arizona teachers severed their employment early in the school year. A majority of those educators held standard teacher certificates. 

To learn more about the shortage, KJZZ's The Show spoke with Erin Hart, the senior vice president and chief of policy and community impact for Education Forward Arizona.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to clarify the type of unfilled teacher positions. 

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Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.