Editorial: Not all school districts have vacancies, but challenges remain
The state of education has it that still one in five classroom vacancies remain to be filled, and Arizona schools started this year with more openings than last year as more teachers chose to leave the classroom.
The exodus is not something new. In recent years, local educators have reported as many as 40% of their teachers move on. Forty percent every year.
A report this past week by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that 150 of the school districts and charter schools that responded to this year’s survey said they found themselves with nearly 6,950 positions to be filled. That is up from the approximately 6,230 at the start of the 2018-19 school year.
Still, that is not the case everywhere – such as Prescott.
“We are actually in really good shape this year after putting some strategic planning together to approach recruiting and retaining differently,” said Joe Howard, superintendent of the Prescott Unified School District. “It’s a real success story for us right now.”
The success: No vacancies, “including, knock on wood, for the first time bus drivers,” Howard said, adding that three years ago PUSD was at an all-time high of 20%.
“Prescott is a place where people come, and they retire here,” he added.
And the district received a little help. “Our foundation made it part of their strategic plan too,” increasing and helping with better recruitment.
The challenge has not disappeared, however.
“We celebrate this reluctantly. It is hard to control, and it comes with giving raises.” PUSD gave no raises for eight years, but has done so for the past six, Howard said.
While that comes with managing resources and funding, it was helped by statewide efforts – including #RedForEd, which ultimately resulted in a 20% raise for teachers over three years.
But we see it like Howard does – an imperfect solution in an imperfect world.
Higher salaries have helped, but they are across the board.
“We’re still struggling to compete against other schools and districts in the state,” Howard admitted.
That is why those 150 districts and charters reported vacancies. The salaries for teachers are improving, yes. Thank you advocates, administrators, school boards, and politicians (the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey).
But the problem remains when a teacher can go elsewhere for $10,000 more. They can pull up stakes and go to another state, even city, do the same job and make noticeably more money.
That’s why the involvement of the Prescott Education Foundation matters too. This is not a PUSD problem, it is a community challenge.
Prescott is holding ground.
Look at it like this: they’re winning the battles, but the war on education funding is far from over.
— The Daily Courier