“There is no ladder in education,” says Professor X, longtime high school educator of 25 years. He insists even having the strongest of altruistic intentions and commitment to public service isn’t enough to survive a burn out.
The Arizona Department of Education shows that while there are 92,000 earned teaching certificates, only 60,000 are active. Furthermore, a 2015 study conducted by the Morrison Institute of Public Policy reveals that 42% of Arizona teachers leave their profession within three years.
Such high attrition rates have caused both the local and state government to seek ways to fill vacant teaching positions. The Arizona’s Teacher Academy scholarship, signed into effect by Gov. Doug Ducey on Sept. 26th, 2017, waivers tuition for 200 students studying to become an educator and who are attending one of the state’s three public universities: University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. In return, students must commit four years to teaching in an educational institution.
The plan aims to funnel a generation of educators into the workforce, however, the issue of low income and educators being overworked still persists.
Paul Stapleton-Smith, Education Chair of the Pima Area Labor Federation, states that the scholarship isn’t sufficient—it is providing a band aid to a gaping wound.
“The universities are paying for this program, “ said Stapleton-Smith, “the one million going towards it is money circulating through already existing scholarships funds and grants…our government refuses to allocate funds towards education and instead is set on giving tax exemptions to those who least need it.”
As of now, the starting salary for teachers in Arizona begins at 35,000 a year. Prop 123, which marginally passed, will allocate 70% of the state’s desired lawsuit payout towards funding education and as claimed, towards teacher’s salaries. How much of a raise will be determined from district to district.
The prospects are improving for prospective educators, however, for some veteran teachers, the damage is done. For years the teaching salary has not kept up with inflation and the increased cost of living. Professor X admits that he was financially crippled when his truck broke down recently. “On my income and in my mid-fifties, I could not afford a new truck,” he says.