Arizona fails its future as Doug Ducey, our "Education governor", goes mum on teacher exodus

Cross-posted from skyislandscriber.com

Actually I’m not being fair. Dougie proposed a 0.4%raise (which works out to a couple of dollars a week) and then signed off on vouchers for everyone (that siphons off several thousand public dollars to private, religious schools). That’s what an “education governor” does. It gets worse. Read on and weep.

Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy has released a fact sheet highlighting the key findings of an upcoming report on Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms. (h/t BlueMeanie.) Here are the bullet points.

  • Arizona annually is losing more teachers than bachelor of education degrees produced by its three universities.
  • 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.
  • When adjusted for inflation, elementary school teachers here are paid 14% less than in 2001. Arizona secondary teachers are being paid 11% less.
  • 74% of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
  • Arizona teacher rosters do not reflect state demographics, offering limited role models for children of color.

And on top of all that, Ducey sticks it to our teachers by proposing a niggardly, insulting 0.4% raise. See Laurie Roberts’ comments in Is Ducey joking? A 4/10th’s of a percent pay raise for teachers?

I know Ducey’s in a tough spot because money’s tight due to a quarter century of tax cuts and due to the fact that he wants to continue cutting taxes every year.

But Ducey could have proposed delaying previously approved corporate tax cuts set to be phased in next year, allowing him to double his proposed investment in public education. Even freezing automatic 20 percent increases in the corporate tax credit that funds private school tuition would have signaled a commitment to public education.

But a 4/10s of a percent pay raise?

This, again, is Ducey … :

“This is an investment by the state of Arizona in recognizing and rewarding the work of our teachers in a way that is fair, permanent and fiscally responsible.”

And they can take that to the bank …

Or maybe to a payday loan center.

If this isn’t a crisis, I don’t know what is. AZBlueMeanie agrees: New study: ‘Arizona teacher recruitment, retention and pay are at crisis levels’

David Fitzsimmons uses his sharp wit to expose the problems facing public education in Arizona as State Senator Rip Fiddler talks public education

The most piercing comments again come from Laurie Roberts at azcentral.com: Teachers fed up? In Arizona? Noooo. (h/t AZBlueMeanie)

The study – funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, Helios Education Foundation and The Pike and Susan Sullivan Foundation – concluded that teachers are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons – retirement, disillusionment, low pay and a belief that they aren’t supported.

Me? I don’t see how they can say that.

Our governor has proclaimed himself the education governor.

But wait: Look at all this help they’re getting

Why, just three months ago, Ducey, in his State of the State address, said he had “a new appreciation for the excellence occurring in our school system.” He attributed that success to teachers.

“I want teachers in our state to know: You make a difference. I value your work and it’s time we return the favor.”

Four days later, he proposed a pay raise that amounts to about $2 a week.

Three months later, he signed a universal voucher bill that’ll divert more public money to private schools.

This, in a state that already spends $1,365 less, when adjusted for inflation, to educate a child than it did in 2008.

Me? I can’t imagine why teachers are feeling slighted.

Here are selected observations from the Morrison Institute’s Report: AZ in crisis over teacher pay, retention

“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.”

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.”

Arizona, you see, is not just failing its teachers. Arizona is failing its future.

Advertisements

Misogynistic Malfeasance

What is going on with K–12 teachers in Arizona’s district education systems is nothing short of malfeasance on the part of the state and ultimately, on the part of the people. We have allowed our teachers to be disregarded and undervalued to the point that one must question why anyone would care to be a teacher. Truth is, today very few are choosing that route.

Four weeks into the 2016–2017 school year, Arizona saw 53 percent of its district classrooms without a certified teacher; over 2,000 had no teacher and another 2,000 had an uncertified person at the head of the class. Part of the problem is recruitment and retention. In fact, an upcoming report from ASU’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy, states that 85% of rural school and 77% of urban administrators say hiring new teachers is somewhat or extremely difficult. The report also states that Arizona is losing more teachers than bachelor of education degrees produced by its three state universities. Turnover is high, with 22% of teachers not teaching in state after one year and 42% of them leaving the profession within three years.

Probably one of the biggest problem is teacher pay that is rock bottom lowest (50th) in the nation. In fact, elementary school teachers here are paid 14% less than in 2001 and secondary teachers are paid 11% less. Governor Ducey’s response for next year’s budget is to give teachers a 0.4 percent pay raise amounting to $187 extra next year on an average salary of $46,384 in 2016. I don’t know about you, but an extra $187 per year wouldn’t convince me to do anything I hadn’t already decided to do.

This paltry teacher raise isn’t the only funding boost to education Ducey is recommending, as he’s proposed a total of $113.6 million for K–12 education next year. But, in light of the fact that per pupil funding is $1,365 less than it was in 2008 (adjusting for inflation) that amount is not even a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.43 billion that has been cut.

The Legislature (including some Republicans) is going a step further in proposing a one percent raise for teachers, which would amount to an additional $430 per year at a total cost of $31 million. Democratic legislators and AZ Schools Now, a coalition of education groups, are advocating for a four percent raise which would give the average teacher an annual boost of $1,720 by freezing corporate tax cuts. Even this amount though, would still leave Arizona teachers $8,616 short of the U.S. average annual salary for teachers.

Why this isn’t something all of us are screaming bloody murder about is, I’m sure, multi-faceted. The most obvious is it doesn’t support the agenda of school choice proponents. After all, from Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children, to Michael and Olga Block and their BASIS empire, to Senator Yarbrough and his cash cow School Tuition Organization, raising the salaries of Arizona’s district teachers just isn’t a high priority. But, there is likely a more insidious reason, one that most people probably never think of, and that is the fact that most K–12 teachers are, and traditionally have been, women.

Back in 2014, a teacher in Portland named Nikki Suydam, penned a guest opinion published by the Oregonian on oregonlive.com. In it, Ms. Suydam pointed out that “blaming women for society’s problems is as old as the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden, or Pandora and her box of woes, or every medieval witch hunt spurred on by crop failure or plague outbreak.” “Contemporary education reformers” she wrote “have launched a similar witch hunt to root out ”rotten apples“ from a profession still more than 75 percent female.”

She goes on to make the point that “No similar reform movement targets doctors (65 percent male) for our nation’s spiraling obesity epidemic. America’s dentists (78 percent male) are not held responsible for their patients’ tooth decay. Law enforcement officers (80 percent male) are not blamed for crime statistics. Nor are engineers (78 percent male) ‘held accountable’ for the crumbling U.S. infrastructure.”

And yet, teachers (three-fourths of whom are women) are often vilified for any lack of success in today’s public district schools. This, despite the fact that 20 percent of Arizona’s children live in poverty and the vast majority of these children attend district schools. This despite the fact that Arizona is 48th in the nation in per pupil spending. This despite the fact that our Governor and Legislature continue to push for ways to siphon more tax dollars away from our district schools.

Let’s face it. Whether we are talking about homemakers, or nurses, or teachers; professions traditionally filled by women just don’t earn the same respect and salaries of those dominated by men. We really should get past this old paradigm though, and not look at who does the work, but what work is done. After all, for most people, their child is their most precious “possession” and they turn over the care of this precious possession to a teacher for six to eight hours each day. Shouldn’t we want these teachers to be highly skilled, appropriately valued, and sufficiently compensated?

Numerous studies have looked at teachers’ impact on student achievement. A 2012 research study by the RAND Corporation, found that “among school-related factors, teachers matter most.” The study also found “When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.” Steve Seleznow, President and CEO of Arizona Community Foundation and a former school administrator said, “Teacher pay and support is a proxy for how highly we think of students and their education…If we value the education our children receive, we must provide teachers compensation commensurate with those values.”

Every parent knows that children are sponges and they are really good at picking up on the dissonance between our words and our actions. When we undervalue our teachers, on some level, our children know we are undervaluing them as well. And that my friends, is a really, really sad state of affairs.