Through various attacks, decertification efforts, and censorship laws, policy makers in Arizona have de-professionalized the teaching profession and demoralized those still in the classroom. New laws punish educators who speak about racial or social justice, while extreme parent groups have created social media platforms to target educators. Salaries and benefits remain poor, while workloads have only grown.
Unsurprisingly, Arizona’s educator retention crisis has continued to deepen, with educators of color hit particularly hard. As of January, halfway through the 2022-2023 school year, Arizona has 2,890 teacher vacancies, in addition to thousands of openings for paraprofessionals, bus drivers and other education support professionals. These vacancies are being filled by long-term substitutes, by doubling up classes, or teachers taking on yet another obligation during their prep period.
In addition, another 5,202 vacancies this school year were filled by educators who did not go through a standard certification process. Although this has been an issue in Arizona for years, it’s become particularly acute since the spring of 2022, when the Arizona Legislature passed a measure allowing degree-seeking individuals to step right into being the teacher of record to address educator shortages. We have encountered new high school graduates who are now teaching. No additional training or advanced degree required. This is scary. It not only harms the education of our children but exacerbates the problem of retention and causes our current members to be overly burdened with assisting these “educators.”
In response, AEA has developed a union-led strategy to support and empower our members across the state, with the goal of improving retention and keeping highly qualified educators in our schools. We designed the program to have a particular focus on retention for educators of color. In recognition of our innovative approach, NEA recently awarded AEA a highly competitive Great Public Schools grant to support this work.
Our strategy includes:
- Community building and wellness events like our educator hikes
- A member-led listening tour in English and Spanish
- Professional development trainings led by educators, for educators
- Recognition for NBCT teachers and other highly accomplished educators
- Cohort-based mentorship programs
Over the course of the 2022-2023 school year, nearly 1,000 educators have already participated in our Learn and Lead programming, impacting almost 15,000 students.
Check out some of our upcoming Learn and Lead events, or reach out to Learn and Lead Specialist Carrie Wolfe, [email protected], to learn more and get involved!