A Job Anyone Can Do Isn’t Worth Very Much

Arizona is facing a teacher shortage and low pay is at least partly to blame. According to a recent report:

Arizona’s elementary school teacher salaries rank “dead last” in the nation, when adjusted for cost of living, says (Dan) Hunting. High school teacher salaries come in at 48 out of 50 states, he says.

  • Elementary school teachers in Arizona get paid 14 percent less than they did in 2001, and high school teachers get 11 percent less, when wages are adjusted for inflation.
  • Every year, the number of teachers leaving the classroom exceeds the number of new teachers graduated by Arizona’s three universities.
  • A whopping 74 percent of the Arizona school administrators surveyed say their schools face teacher shortages.

It’s not surprising that a bright, young person hoping to raise a family would reject teaching as a profession.

So, of course, Arizona’s lawmakers are responding with significant pay increases and more resources directed at public schools, right? Wrong.

Instead, they are expanding failed voucher schemes and lowering the standards for entering the teaching profession.

Here’s how Education Week reports the teaching standards changes:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed new legislation that promises to make sweeping changes to the state’s teaching corps, allowing districts to hire educators without any formal teaching training or experience.

Senate Bill 1042, similar to laws recently passed in Oklahoma and Utah, allows for prospective educators to enter the classroom if they have five years of experience in fields “relevant” to the subject area they plan to teach. The bill leaves it up to each district to decide whether a candidate’s work experience is sufficient. Like in Utah and Oklahoma, Arizona officials cite teacher shortages as the impetus for the move.

So, now in addition to low pay, teachers in Arizona are being told that just about anyone could do there jobs. Lowering the standards for entry into the teaching profession sends a clear message: Teaching doesn’t matter. It’s a message students and parents alike are sure to see. If anyone can be a teacher, teaching has little value. Taxpayers are being told that cheap teachers are more important than good teaching. So, why pay more for talent when you can just lower the standards?

Imagine if the same approach was taken with lawyers or doctors or engineers. Would you go to an accountant with five years of “relevant” experience but no formal training? Would you take your pet to a vet who was someone who had just “always been around and liked animals?”

Let’s be clear: Arizona doesn’t value schools or the children who attend them. All the rhetoric and catchy bill titles can’t change the fact that Arizona is dismantling public schools and devaluing the teaching profession.

Sadly, the Arizona solution is one that other states are also trying. Utah is one of the states that recently changed teaching standards in order to keep pay low.

Again, students notice. Go ahead, tell a student that just about anyone can become a teacher and that when they do, they’ll earn among the lowest salaries of any professional in the state. See how many sign up for that assignment. Want to exacerbate your teacher shortage? Do exactly what Utah and Arizona are doing.

Want to prove you value kids? Show me a budget that invests in their schools, their teachers, and their communities.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears


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