10 Things About Arizona Schools to Make Even Alice Cooper Cringe

Alice Cooper still rocks the house with the timeless "School's Out." Some Arizona teachers will be tapping along with the music.
Alice Cooper still rocks the house with the timeless "School's Out." Some Arizona teachers will be tapping along with the music. Jim Louvau

Alice Cooper still rocks the house with the timeless "School's Out." Some Arizona teachers will be tapping along with the music.
Jim Louvau
This is the time of year when Arizona’s schoolchildren reacquaint themselves with local lad Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” anthem.

It’s also the time of year when Arizona’s teachers revisit the question of what the state’s lawmakers will do for/to the state of education, as budgets and bills wend their way toward completion. Not a few will ask themselves if they’ll be back in the fall.

Arizona’s teacher shortage has been well documented down the years. This year, politicians have gone a few rounds sparring over teacher pay, relaxing hiring standards and the cost of administrative overhead.

So comes a new study by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute. The  clever people over at ASU’s public policy think-tank issued a report Wednesday gauging the extent and cause of the teacher shortage.

Researchers compared a state database of almost 90,000 teachers, federal labor statistics and the results of their own poll of nearly 2,100 Arizona teachers and administrators.

Here are 10 key findings:

  1. High school teacher pay ranks 49th of the 50 states, after adjusting for cost of living.
  2. Elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation, after adjusting for cost of living.
  3. Seventy-four percent of administrators surveyed said their schools are currently experiencing a shortage of teachers.
  4. Median pay for Arizona’s elementary school teachers has dropped by 11 percent since 2001. For high school teachers, the decline has been 10 percent.
  5. Forty-two percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 quit within three years.
  6. Twenty-two percent of the teachers hired between 2013 and 2015 stopped teaching in Arizona after one year.
  7. Over one-third of Arizona teachers have fewer than four years in the classroom.
  8. Arizona loses more teachers each year than it produces from bachelor of education programs at its three state universities.
  9. Finding qualified teachers is difficult in specialized areas such as math, science and special education.
  10. Fourteen percent of Arizona teachers are Latino, compared with 44 percent of K-12 students.

The numbers don’t bode well for Arizona’s kids. This is what Morrison Institute Director Thom Reilly said about the findings:

“The voices of Arizona teachers come through loud and clear: They love their work and a strong majority of teachers say they are satisfied with their careers.

"But they are increasingly feeling the pressure from continually increasing workloads and decreasing wages, leading many to leave the profession early. These same forces undoubtedly also discourage young people from considering teaching as a career.

“If we do not find ways to keep effective teachers in the profession and attract qualified young professionals to become teachers, some children will never benefit from having an effective teacher in the classroom.

“Consider that scenario for a moment. Imagine a teacher or two who made a positive impact on your life; now, try to imagine your life without that influence. It’s unthinkable, really – just as unthinkable as it is to not make a renewed commitment and investment for quality teachers in every classroom.”

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Sean Holstege is the editor of Phoenix New Times. He's been a print news reporter for 35 years. He was an investigative reporter at The Arizona Republic and the Oakland Tribune. He won a Sigma Delta Chi award for investigative reporting. He’s covered transportation, terrorism, the border, disasters, child welfare, courts, and breaking news.
Contact: Sean Holstege