In a few short years there will be no one left to teach in Arizona.  That’s not an alarmist’s statement, it’s just the nature of what’s to come.

This #RedforEd movement is important for all members of our great state because the government has not been executing the will of the voters.  The price will be high.  Education needs to be restored for the stability of Arizona, both economically but also socially and culturally.  

Without arguing the merits  of education, or the reasons education has been gutted, or any of the possible remedies, let us just look at the current state of affairs with educators (teachers) in Arizona.

  • 24% of current teachers are within 4 years of retirement (source)
  • 42% of new teachers leave the profession within 3 years (source)
  • Almost 900 teachers left mid-contract in 2018 (source)
  • 2,000 teaching jobs are unfilled (source)
  • 3,400 teaching jobs are filled by unqualified people (source)

Let’s look at a couple of looming funding and financial issues that will only make this worse.

  • The small extra funding the state has produced for education has come from Prop 123 (which was a sham to begin with).  That has been ruled as illegal by a federal judge.  That means education could be cut by another $344,000,000.  (source)
  • School districts may have to repay millions in mis-allocated (by the state) federal Special Education funding.  (source)
  • Insurance premiums have tripled between 2013 and 2017 (source) and are going up again this year! 
  • Teacher pay in Arizona, adjusted for cost of living in the state, is worst in the nation.  Check out this map for great information.
  • Funding for education has been in decline since 2001 when monitoring began by the Auditor General.

  • In many cases teachers make less today than they did in the past.  Here’s one example:

As awareness of the financial landscape increase among teachers, and as more would-be teachers look into the financial prospects of teaching, it will become increasingly difficult for schools to fill positions.  

Who will be teaching in Arizona in five years?

In a previous entry I discussed how during the recession the structure of teacher pay was gutted and never resurrected.  The end result has been that teachers today, that taught a decade ago, are in worse financial positions than a decade ago.

While we all hear about the turnover of new teachers, this financial situation is forcing veteran, experienced teachers from the profession.

Teaching takes a long, long time to learn how to do.  If I had to pin a number on how long it took become a component teacher, I’d say 5 years. Regardless of that number, the quality of education coming from a beginning teacher is low, regardless of their potential as a teacher.

I’d like to draw your attention to how veteran teachers, mid-career, are leaving, and what that means for students.  These are the heavy lifters on campuses, those with experience to help new teachers and the energy, lacking from those ready to retire, to do it.  But, they can’t make ends meet! To teach has become a luxury that most cannot afford.

In a post coming soon I’ll discuss how reported teacher salaries are grossly misleading.  You can decide for yourselves, but according to our research the average teacher salary in Arizona is in the middle $30,000 before deductions and taxes.  Throw in medical insurance premiums of up to $8,000, 12% mandatory withholding for ASRS, and taxes, teachers are trying to me ends meet on around $700 to $800 a paycheck.

Now consider that, supposedly, ΒΌ of teachers in Arizona are within 4 years of retiring.  In that four-year period droves of veteran teachers will find new careers.

The people that will step in will be unqualified or brand new, and as pointed out earlier, doing low quality work. However, without veteran teachers to mentor and coach these new people along, I don’t believe it’s a stretch to imagine that the end result will be damaging to the hopes of students.

If a quality education removes barriers,allowing people access to better lives, and teachers provide that education, and they are leaving in droves because they cannot pay the electric bill, and the public doesn’t hold the governments (state and local) accountable, we will be paying higher taxes for welfare and prisons.  Is that run-on sentence hyperbole?

Is it a stretch to claim that if education is not properly funded today, with powerful oversight to keep the money going where it most matters for students, that we will instead be paying for an increasingly militarized police force? We can give those in greatest need of a quality education access today, or we can incarcerate them tomorrow.

The stability of our economy and the stability of our society is dependent on a quality education system.  

This is a crisis in the making.  We need to exact massive reform in education today!  

This coming year is an election year.  School boards and state level officials from both parties need to feel the urgency of fixing this.  Education reform must be the top priority this November!