Ducey’s solution to Arizona’s teacher shortage: Make it easier to become one

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants to end Arizona’s widespread teacher shortage by making it easier to become a teacher.

Ducey believes we need to put more experts like Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in front of students. But teachers say a courtroom isn’t a sixth-grade classroom.

“She’s the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court — the United States Supreme Court,” Ducey has said of O’Connor. “She would have been deemed unqualified (to teach) by the system … That’s crazy.”

Ducey wants to clear the way for second-career professionals with expertise in fields like math, science or civics to teach in those subjects in Arizona classrooms.

An Arizona bill is headed toward passage that would do just that by eliminating some of Arizona’s teacher certification requirements.

Chris Kotterman is director of governmental relations at the Arizona School Boards Association, which opposes the bill. I asked him to play devil’s advocate and make the best case for the bill.

“The best argument for it is that there is an issue we have with perhaps people on paper who have academic qualifications and might want to get in the classroom,” he said.

Three-quarters of Arizona adminstrators say their schools need teachers. But teachers say a courtroom isn’t a classroom.

Teacher Beth Lewis made the jump from the private sector.

“I couldn’t even get the kids to open the book,” she said. “It took me three years in the classroom to really become a savvy, experienced teacher.”

Though he sees the argument for it, Kotterman said Ducey’s bill does little to address the real source of Arizona’s teacher shortage.

“The main issue driving teacher recruitment and retention in Arizona is not how hard it is to become a teacher,” he said. “It’s that the pay’s not good and it’s a hard job.”

Lewis said she can’t support it.

“I think lawmakers are trying to help us out, but I’m begging you, if you’re a lawmaker, please don’t enact this bill,” Lewis said. “It’s hard on the rest of us having to constantly retrain first-year teachers who don’t know what they’re doing. It’s a huge burden on the rest of us.”

Republican School Superintendent Diane Douglas also opposes the legislation. In a prepared statement, she said:

“Although I recognize the severity of the teacher shortage in Arizona, I have serious concerns with Senate Bill 1042. In my opinion, lowering the standards for new teachers is not the way to correct the problem. Instead, I have recommended that we focus on increasing teacher salaries to help retain and attract the best candidates.
“There are currently a variety of ways teachers can make their way into the classroom, and reviewing those pathways to streamline them is a good idea. However, those programs should ensure that teacher candidates are prepared to manage a classroom, deliver instruction and have mastered their subject area. Since there is no more important job than teaching our children, our focus should be to provide teachers with the tools that they need to be successful, including appropriate pay.”

-Originally published by Brahm Resnik, 12 News on 4/26/17 at 11:25 am