Arizona educators rally at the state capitol for change

According to the Arizona Education Association, as of January, there were more than 2,800 teacher vacancies in the state.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 8:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Arizona educators rallied at the state’s capitol in Phoenix, demanding lawmakers address several concerns. These teachers are asking state leaders to tackle Arizona’s growing teacher retention rate.

According to the Arizona Education Association, as of January, there were more than 2,800 teacher vacancies in the state. The association says nearly half of all teacher positions open are being filled by people who don’t meet the state’s standard teaching requirements.

Margaret Chaney, an educator in southern Arizona, tells 13 News the teacher retention crisis keeps getting worse as this school year goes on. The educators say their agenda isn’t political they just want lawmakers to fund public schools fully.

“For the past few years it’s just become unsustainable,” Chaney said. “The more they are asked to do the harder it gets the less they can take care of themselves and let alone their own families.”

Chaney has taught in the Tucson Unified School District for more than 20 years. She said she had never seen so many of her colleagues leave the classroom until now.

“You reach a breaking,” Chaney said. “It’s just been so sad to see such good people, such dedicated people leave.”

Marisol Garcia, the President of the Arizona Education Association and 20-year teaching veteran were one of the many educators at the capitol. Garcia said the goal of the rally at the capitol was to call on lawmakers to pass their 2023 Educator’s Budget.

“We are funding three systems at a low level,” Garcia said. “We need to fund one system and pour everything in it to make sure kids are successful.”

The Arizona Education Association’s 2023 budget includes higher salaries and wages for teachers and staff, funds to provide healthcare for teachers, ensuring aspiring teachers graduate with no debt, and funding for student mental health support.

“It seems like we are always asking for more funding but it’s because the answer has never been full funding,” Chaney said. “We finally have a governor who is willing to do that.”

The group is hopeful with Governor Katie Hobbs in the governor’s office, their concerns will be heard. The educators even met with the governor in her office about their concerns in the classroom.

The Governor’s office told 13 News in a statement that Arizonans have made it clear that it’s time to rebuild and reinvest in public schools. They said the governor is listening to concerns and taking action.

“As the sister of two public school teachers, the Governor knows how hard they work every day on behalf of their students and is committed to investing in public education and respecting our educators and all school staff. Meeting with AEA and teachers today is another step in the Governor’s commitment to making a historic investment in schools and making teachers feel they have a voice in our administration.”

Governor Katie Hobbs Office

According to Amber Gould, a teacher in Glendale, Ariz., they are willing to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure this retention crisis is addressed, adding they’ll do anything to ensure success in the classroom.

“The issue is that it has been increasingly difficult to fulfill that promise when we have educators that are talented that are passionate but they keep leaving,” Gould said. “They leave due to underfunded classrooms and they leave due to the lack of respect.”

Aspiring teachers like Elena Sloboda, who is currently in school, say it’s now also harder for those wanting to become teachers to get inside the classroom.

“We are facing massive amounts of debt,” Sloboda said. “We aren’t paid for our labor and our student teaching that is required to be a teacher.”

These educators say they know they have a tough fight ahead of them. However, they are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure teachers are getting the support they need both inside and outside the classroom, so they can be the best teacher for their students.

“Let’s be very clear a veteran educator leaving their school sight impacts the student more than anyone else,” Garcia said. “Not just them and their team, but the kids.”