The state’s teacher shortage hits a critical point. So why are they leaving? In their own words, teachers across Arizona explain why a lack of respect, the Common Core and plunging salaries are forcing them out.
Tammy Shaw was in love with teaching when she first started. The kindergarten teacher in Mesa never minded working as many as 60 hours a week. She was happy as long as it meant her students were doing well.
Shaw thought she would never leave.
But that was before the salary freezes. And the scripted curricula. And the overflowing classrooms.
At the end of this school year, Tammy Shaw plans to stop teaching.
And she’s not alone.
Arizona’s educators are disappearing. In September of 2014—after the school year had already started—62 percent of district and charter schools in the state reported having open teaching positions, according to an Arizona Department of Education report. In the 2013-2014 school year, 24 percent of first-year teachers and 20 percent of second-year teachers in the state did not return to their jobs.
With budgets shriveled from low funding, district leaders across the state are making hard choices when it comes to teacher salaries, with some educators waiting years for a single pay raise.
Yet, money is not the only reason for the state’s shortage, current and former Arizona teachers said. Instead, they blame the problems on rigid academic standards robbing them of creative freedoms. But what they say is central to the crisis is a systemic lack of respect from lawmakers, taxpayers and administrators alike.
Being a good teacher is about more than just lesson planning -- at the beginning of the school year, educators must often decorate their classrooms with their own money. Some teachers even buy extra materials to round out lessons.