Let’s call it the Warm Body Law. … One that allows folks without any teaching credentials to lead our kids in classrooms across Arizona, as long as those men and women have at least five years of experience in “relevant fields.”And those fields? “Any content area.”
Tens of thousands of teachers were hired in the fall of 2015 on emergency or temporary credentials to meet these needs, and the same pattern has emerged as schools opened in 2016. In addition to hiring individuals who are not prepared to teach, districts and schools facing shortages have a small number of undesirable options: They can increase class sizes, cancel classes, use short-term substitutes, or assign teachers from other fields to fill vacancies. All of these stopgap solutions undermine the quality of education, especially for the students who most need effective schools.
In Arizona, 62 percent of school districts had unfilled teaching positions three months into the school year in 2013-14. In the same school year, close to 1,000 teachers were on substitute credentials — a 29 percent increase from the previous year. With one of the highest turnover rates of any state and 24 percent of the teacher workforce eligible to retire by the end of 2018, the outlook for Arizona’s future points to continued shortages.