Republican Bill Proposes Mandating Yearly Report on Teacher Attrition in Arizona

There is an ongoing issue of teacher shortage in schools in Arizona, but there is no available data to fully understand the scope of the problem, making finding a solution difficult.

In order to address this issue, lawmakers and Gov. Katie Hobbs are proposing that the State Board of Education, which is responsible for overseeing public schools, start collecting more data on the location, demographics, and reasons for teacher absences.

A report was released in December by a task force appointed by Hobbs to study ways to improve teacher retention. The report suggested increasing teacher pay, making health insurance more affordable, and analyzing the success rates of different teacher training programs in producing long-term educators.

The task force also recommended that the board be required to publish an annual report on teacher turnover, broken down by subject area, school location, and teacher demographics such as race, ethnicity, and years of experience.

The board is currently collaborating with Hobbs’ office and the state charter schools board to determine how these reports can be compiled.

A Republican proposal inspired by the task force’s conclusions is also aiming to gather more information on the teacher vacancy crisis. House Bill 2608, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gress, a former teacher and Phoenix Republican, would mandate that the board produce an annual report on teacher retention, turnover, and vacancies to be sent to the governor and legislative leaders.

The report would provide details on the subject area, grade level, school location, and type of school where vacancies occur, as well as the time it takes to fill those vacancies. Additionally, it would compare turnover rates between certified and non-certified teachers to assess the impact of training on retention.

Gress, who campaigned on increasing teacher pay, believes that his bill will provide lawmakers with crucial information to develop effective strategies for improving the situation.

Until now, information on the teacher shortage has been fragmented. The School District Employee Report examines the experience levels of teachers by school, district, and county. The Classroom Teacher Attrition and Retention survey conducted by the Arizona Department of Education looks at teacher experience, age, ethnicity, and certification status, but it only indicates the percentage of teachers who were “dropped” from the previous year’s report, which can include retirement, leaving the profession, moving out of state, or accepting a different position.

The most comprehensive survey on the teacher vacancy crisis is the annual survey conducted by the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. The latest survey, released in September, revealed that the state’s teacher shortage has persisted for eight years, with over 6,000 classrooms in Arizona lacking qualified teachers.

However, even this survey has limitations as participation is voluntary, and only 131 school districts and charter schools provided input last year, despite the existence of 571 charter schools and 201 public school districts in Arizona.

Gress’ proposal would require schools to report data on vacancies, making it mandatory.

During a hearing for the bill, Arizona State Board of Education Executive Director Sean Ross expressed the need for clarification on what qualifies as a vacancy and also suggested including a funding source to support the time-consuming and complex process of collecting and analyzing data.

Chris Kotterman, a lobbyist for the Arizona School Board Association, voiced concerns about the additional burden of data reporting on schools, pointing out that much of the information is already collected by the state Department of Education.

Gress has stated his willingness to consider amendments to alleviate the workload for school officials and clarify the data collection process. The bill received bipartisan support from the House Education Committee, with all 9 members voting in favor. It will now proceed for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

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