Teachers say salary is to blame for teacher exodus from Arizona


A teacher in Arizona leaves class as a social studies teacher to work as a security guard in another state. The reason: more money.

Jon Knapp, a middle school teacher in Peoria, told ABC15 he tendered his resignation because his average salary of $40,000 a year was unsustainable.

“Wages aren’t going up, there’s no support from state or even local governments that makes me think it’s going to get better anytime soon,” he said.

Knapp has enough to get by, but it can be hard to make ends meet to pay the bills and have enough for groceries.

He says he manages to make ends meet by staying in a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate, sleeping on a futon.

The low salary is a driving force for him to leave the classroom, although he does not want to leave the students he has taught.

“I thought about leaving last year, I changed my mind, I just couldn’t do it, I wanted to be with my kids,” he said.

He’s not alone – Susan Collins, a music teacher at Kingman, said leaving the classroom didn’t feel right to her, but the pay wasn’t enough for her single-income household.

Collins holds a master’s degree and has been teaching music for 30 years.

“That’s where my heart is, but the financial responsibilities I have as the sole breadwinner for my household weighed very heavily on me.”

It’s unclear at this time how many teachers across the state will leave classrooms, as many districts still have contracts.

The Dysart Unified School District has more teachers leaving this school year, with approximately 9% of their certified staff (teachers) not renewing their contract.

Of 1,220 teacher contracts, 106 contracts were not filed for 2022-2023.

This compares to 1,165 teacher contracts submitted for 2021-22, while 67 were not submitted.

This means that the retention rate went from 94.2% to 91.3%.

“We are extremely proud of our retention rate, and while we’ve had a bit more movement in positions this year, it’s consistent with what job markets are currently seeing across the country. Currently, we have 52 openings. of teachers for the 2022-2023 school year, and we are well positioned to have them all filled before school starts,” a district spokesperson said.

In the Mesa Unified School District, which employs 9,000 people, 5% of their employees are leaving.

In total: 368 teachers are leaving their posts and 114 support staff members are leaving their posts.

The Arizona School Staff Administrators Association found in January that 31% of teaching vacancies remain unfilled and 47.7% of vacancies are filled by teachers who do not meet standard certification requirements. of State.

They also found that qualified teachers in certain subjects are at crisis levels: special education, math and science.

The Department of Education told ABC15 that the number of teachers and support staff leaving the classroom is unclear because they don’t have any type of tracking data to show how many before the end of the year.

State Senator TJ Shope served on a school board in Coolidge for 12 years.

“I don’t know if this year is going to be better or worse, obviously we don’t have numbers on the percentage of people who have signed or resigned from contracts to return to their school district or charter,” he said. declared.

Republicans have a majority in the Senate and are working on budget discussions.

“Spending under the formula will increase, it was indicated in the baseline of the budget,” he said. “I think we’re going to put some extra dollars in there, what that number is, I’m not sure at the moment.”

With a $5.3 billion surplus in the state, ABC15 asked if more money was being considered for teachers or the classroom.

“I know there are different plans that people come up with, but ultimately we have to come up with a plan that is sustainable for the long term,” Senator Shope said. as I was, I still have concerns about school districts and school boards and the allocation of money for legislative purposes from those dollars.

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