Editorial: Best way to attract teachers, fix Arizona education

Arizona ranked 41st in quality of school systems, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio, 48th in public-school spending per student, and 51st in 10-year change in teacher salaries. It’s easy to see why school districts are having a hard time retaining and recruiting quality teachers.

Arizona ranked 41st in quality of school systems, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio, 48th in public-school spending per student, and 51st in 10-year change in teacher salaries. It’s easy to see why school districts are having a hard time retaining and recruiting quality teachers.

This week Gov. Doug Ducey promoted his plan to attract teachers to Arizona. The need is obvious. As reported on today’s front page, Arizona has 1,300 teaching positions that have not been filled more than a month into the new school year, according to a survey by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association.

That includes 135 school districts and the state’s charter schools. They began the summer needing to fill 7,000 vacancies.

WalletHub, an online financial site, also released a survey this week that ranked Arizona 51 out of 51 states (Washington, D.C. is included in the rankings) for working conditions for teachers. The WalletHub survey didn’t include the recent 1.06 percent pay raise, thanks to Prop. 123, so it is slightly unfair.

But it did consider more than just salaries. Arizona ranked 41st in quality of school systems, 49th in pupil-teacher ratio, 48th in public-school spending per student, and 51st in 10-year change in teacher salaries.

It’s easy to see why school districts are having a hard time retaining and recruiting quality teachers.

Gov. Ducey’s plan to offer free tuition in exchange for a commitment to teach in Arizona for a number of years is a good one. However, if Arizona really wants to fill those vacancies and retain quality teachers, it needs to more than just that.

We have written many times about the lack of funding for public education by state lawmakers. It makes no sense.

First, these are our children, our grandchildren. Why are we not giving them a quality education that will help them succeed in life?

Second, better education usually translates into a more qualified work force, which means better employment, more tax revenue for the state, a stronger economy and lower crime. Investing in education is the silver bullet that slays many problems in society.

And yet, our school districts still have to sue the state over money that was already promised, because our lawmakers refuse to fully fund public education.

Money doesn’t fix everything, and throwing a bunch of money at problems may not help. But, having been starved for funds for decades now, our public school districts have become very efficient and now far exceed expectations considering the low funding (49th in funding, 41st in quality).

Think what they could do if they just had the national average of funding (which would be $3,000 more per student).

They could address many of the problems that are keeping people from remaining or becoming teachers.

Let’s give the governor’s plan a chance and hope it helps. But until the state legislature gets serious about providing funds to improve education in Arizona, teachers will continue to leave and it is our children who will suffer.