Report: AZ in crisis over teacher pay, retention

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Arizona teacher recruitment, retention and pay are at crisis levels with more teachers leaving the profession annually than bachelor of education degrees produced by the three universities, compounded by an exodus of instructors for reasons ranging from retirement to poor salaries.

Those are just some of the data points and facts in the upcoming Morrison Institute for Public Policy report, Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms. The study’s top facts are being released today in a two-page brief, with the full report to be released in May.

Key Facts from the upcoming report:
Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms
Download the PDF here

“There continues to be much discussion regarding quality education in Arizona, and that goal often begins and ends with quality teachers in the classroom,” said Thom Reilly, director of Morrison Institute, an Arizona State University public policy center. “This report looks at the status of the teaching profession from many angles to help further the discussion and resolution from a fact- and evidence-based perspective.”

Morrison Institute Senior Policy Analyst Dan Hunting was the principal researcher of the report, which includes an exclusive survey of teachers from throughout Arizona. The project was funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and The Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation.

“Research shows that the most important variable in a student’s success is the teacher,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “We must focus on recruiting and retaining great teachers so that our students have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.”

Among the key facts in the report:
 • 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years.
 • 74 percent of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
 • When adjusted for cost-of-living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation. High school teacher pay ranks 48th of the 50 states.

READ: Media Coverage: Crisis in Arizona Classrooms

“Teacher pay and support is a proxy for how highly we think of students and their education,” said Steve Seleznow, President & CEO of Arizona Community Foundation and a former school administrator. “When we undervalue our educators, we under educate our children. This problem will not go away without fundamental change in the ways we support our teachers. If we value the education our children receive, we must provide teachers compensation commensurate with those values.”

A Morrison Institute statewide survey found 85 percent of rural school administrators saying that hiring new teachers is somewhat or extremely difficult. Urban school district administrators also had trouble with a statewide teacher shortage, with 77 percent saying hiring teachers is somewhat or extremely difficult.

Teachers are leaving the profession for many reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a feeling of lack of support.

"The teacher shortage is urgent, critical and very real,” said Rachel Yanof, Senior Director of Educational Initiatives for the Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation. “It is imperative that those with the position to influence policy read this report and act in a manner that will stem this crisis as quickly as possible. Our children deserve it.”

Research for the report featured data from a myriad of sources, including:
 • Federal data on labor markets and educational statistics.
 • Employment data on 89,605 individual teachers who taught between 2012 and 2016, from Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
 • A Morrison Institute online Education Workforce Survey of over 300 Arizona school administrators and over 1,600 teachers from all areas of the state, including district and charter schools.
 • Focus group discussions with top-performing teachers throughout the state.
 • Interviews with superintendents, principals and school board members around Arizona.

The complete report of Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms will be released in May and posted on the Morrison Institute website at

Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Arizona’s premier think tank, was established in 1982. An Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute utilizes nonpartisan research, analysis, polling and public dialogue to examine critical state and regional issues. Morrison Institute provides data- and evidence-based review to help improve the state and region’s quality of life. Morrison Institute is part of the ASU College of Public Service and Community Solutions.