PHOENIX - Arizona has been facing a teacher shortage for more than five years, but when COVID-19 was added to the mix in 2020, the problem was made even worse.
Teacher salaries have gone up about 20% over the past four years, but it hasn’t been enough to stop teachers from leaving Arizona schools.
"The pay is not sustainable in Arizona," said Katie Piehl, who used to teach in Arizona.
Piehl is in Colorado nowadays, making more money and experiencing what she thinks is a better quality of life.
"When I moved to Colorado, I got a 30% pay increase,” said Piehl, who could be a poster child of what some consider an Arizona teaching crisis.
Educators continue to leave Arizona. In 2020's Arizona School Personnel Administrator’s Association Survey, it showed 1700 teaching positions that have yet to be filled, representing more than 25% of classrooms looking for replacements
"Half of the positions are filled by people that aren’t ready to be teachers. They’re not qualified or certified to teach, and 25% are filled by long-term subs," said former ASPAA President Justin Wing.
More schools may have been looking for subs in 2020, due to COVID-19.
"They never asked before, because we didn’t have COVID-19," said Wing. "They asked it, and hundred of teachers and other staff members made the decision it was too risky to teach this year."
It’s not certain if a higher salary for teachers in Arizona could have staved off some resignations and retirements, but experts say it couldn’t have hurt
“Arizona teachers, the average salary is still bottom five in the nation. Education, overall, is still bottom five in the nation. We’re top five in something, but unfortunately, it’s high class sizes," said Wing.
Arizona has made efforts, including increasing teacher salaries and giving tuition forgiveness for teachers who stay here after the graduate.
However, it doesn’t seem to be enough to fill the gaps at the moment.