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Gov. Doug Ducey has called on ASU and the state's other institutions of higher learning to help address a shortage of classroom educators by easing their student debt and developing an “Arizona Teachers Academy.”
Ducey, in his State of the State address Monday, said he wants to show "teachers theirs is a profession we respect and are willing to elevate.”
“I’m looking for the best and brightest to commit to teaching in Arizona’s schools. If you make that commitment, we will make this commitment: Your education will be paid for, a job will be waiting and you will be free of debt,” he said at the Arizona Capitol.
“It’s always good to hear a governor pay serious attention to education,” said Carole Basile, dean of ASU’s May Lou Fulton Teachers College. “And we’re eager to develop solutions that would reduce the debt burden on anyone considering a career as an educator.”
ASU President Michael Crow supported the call.
“We appreciate the governor’s commitment to enhancing education opportunities and outcomes in Arizona and endorse the concept of an Arizona Teachers Academy to help address the teacher supply and retention crisis in our state,” he said. “ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College is the largest producer of teachers in Arizona and the fastest-rising top-tier college of education in the U.S. recognized for innovative, immersive programs that lead to more effective teachers and teaching outcomes.”
The proposals were among a wide range of education promises in Ducey’s speech, including increasing teacher pay and offering a $1,000 signing bonus to draw teachers to low-income schools.
“This is an investment by the state of Arizona to recognize and reward the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible,” he said.
Thousands of teaching jobs are open in the state, according to a survey released in November 2016 by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. That group found that 159 school districts and charter schools reported that more than 1,000 teachers left their jobs within the first four weeks of the school year. The districts and charters also reported that they had nearly 2,200 open teacher jobs four weeks into the school year, and an additional 2,200 teacher positions that were being filled by people who did not meet the job criteria.
In November, Diane Douglas, the superintendent of public instruction, released a wide-ranging report called “Kids Can’t Wait 2017,” showing that 46 percent of new teachers leave within four years of starting teaching, typically for careers with higher compensation, more respect and better support.
In 2016, the average estimated starting salary for beginning educators in Arizona was $31,874, according to the report, which also stated that the average classroom teacher’s salary nationwide was estimated a $58,064, while in Arizona it was $45,477.
Ducey gave no further details on the teacher-academy proposal, nor on an array of other plans his speech mentioned to boost education: creating principal academies to train current and future school leaders, a loan-forgiveness program for STEM teachers, new investments for school construction, targeted investments to address the achievement gap, a per-pupil funding boost for high-achieving schools, a larger per-pupil funding boost for low-income public schools that are high-achieving, investments in career and technical education, college knowing-and-going programs for high school students, and Achieve 60 AZ: a statewide effort to boost post-secondary attainment.
The governor will release his state budget proposal Friday.