We Invest In That We Value

Linda Oyon

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

The recently released ASU Morrison Institute report titled “Finding & Keeping Educators for Arizona’s Classrooms”, offers a myriad of interesting insights into Arizona’s teacher shortage. Like the fact that 22% of new teachers hired in AZ between 2013 and 2015 left after their first year on the job and of the new teachers hired in 2013, 42% were not in the AZ Department of Education (ADE) database by 2016.

We know teacher attrition rates – about 8% over the past decade in the U.S. versus 3–4% in high-achieving nations like Finland and Singapore – are a problem. Our national price tag for teacher turnover is in fact, estimated to be $8 billion per year. With the rate ranging from under 9% in Utah to the high of 24% in Arizona, it is clear our state owns a higher than average share of this cost. But, cost isn’t the only factor as “High teacher turnover rates have been found to negatively affect the achievement of all students in a school, not just students in a new teacher’s classroom.”

A 50th ranking for elementary teacher salaries obviously has much to do with this. And although wages for all occupations across the nation actually rose by 2% between 2001 and 2016, teacher salaries have remained flat. In Arizona, elementary school teachers are actually now paid 11% less and high school teachers 10% less than in 2001. This dearth isn’t helped by our state’s low cost of living either. Although we are “only” 49th in secondary teacher pay, when compared to Oklahoma’s lower cost of living, Arizona drops to 50th.

It should have been no surprise to anyone then, that one month into the 2016–17 school year, our state had over 2,000 classrooms without a teacher and another 2,000 with an uncertified one. This despite the fact districts recruit from other states and even other countries to attract qualified candidates. According to the Morrison Report, many graduates from Midwestern colleges come to Arizona to gain two or three years of experience so they can return to their home state and get a teaching job. It appears that increasingly, “Rural Arizona districts may be importing inexperienced teachers and then exporting high-value veteran teachers back to the Midwest.” States surrounding Arizona have also been busy addressing their own teacher shortages by luring away ours. The median salary for California teachers is $30,000 more than in Arizona (even adjusted for the higher costs of living in California) and $10,000 to $15,000 higher in Nevada and New Mexico, making it enticing for AZ teachers to either move to those states or just work across the borders.

Of course, the competition has only become more fierce in light of dropping teacher education enrollments across the country. Between 2009 and 2014, institutions saw a 35% reduction in these enrollments. And, although Arizona prepares almost double the number of teachers as compared to its total teacher workforce of other states, it still isn’t enough. In 2015, there were 1,601 bachelor’s of education degrees granted by the three state universities, yet 8,358 teachers left the ADE teacher database that year. The shortfall is only exacerbated by an increase of district school enrollment of 53,000 over the last five years. In addition, a full 24% of Arizona’s current teachers are eligible to retire by June 2018, so this problem isn’t going away.

What is really sad, is that we know what needs to be done, we just don’t have the political will to do it. The truth is, that in America, we invest in that which we value. If we aren’t paying teachers what they are worth, we are telling them they aren’t worth much. That’s just the bottom line. But it isn’t just about money as teachers also report that working conditions like class sizes, competent and supportive leadership, a school’s testing and accountability environment, and teacher autonomy are also important factors. In the Morrison Report, one rural elementary teacher said, “While an increase in pay would help, I feel a lighter workload and more respect from the community, students, and political leaders would be more beneficial.” I ask you, is that REALLY too much to ask?

Throughout history, K–12 teachers have probably rarely entered the profession for the money, and ironically, that has likely worked against them. Willing to work for less – because of their commitment to their students – has made some value them less. And yet, these are the very people responsible for our precious children a large portion of each day. How’s that for irony?

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Linda Lyon retired as a Colonel (Thomas) from the U.S. Air Force in 2007 at Andrews AFB, Maryland where she served as the Mission Support Group Commander (city manager) for a 20,000 person community with 2,000 people under her command. After retirement from the Air Force, she managed a $28 million logistical service contract at the Department of Energy and served as Deputy Program Manager for the $30 million SBInet contract at L-3 Communications. Since moving to Tucson in 2008, she (and her wife Holly) created and ran four annual Wingspan charity golf tournaments bringing in almost $65,000, and she served as the organization’s Director for 14 months. She also served in key positions for five AZ legislative races. Linda is in her second term as a Governing Board member for the Oracle School District, was named Advocate of the Year for 2013 by the Arizona School Board Association and in 2018, served as the Association's President. She'll be the past president in 2019 and will also be serving as the Federal Legislative Chair for the Arizona PTA.


  1. the people who care don’t count and the people who count don’t care. elections have consequences liberal elitist whining does not. I read the same stuff year after year here as if the arizona voters don’t loathe liberal elitists. the last time the voters voted for a democrat for governor the republicans ran a mormon who republican women wouldn’t vote for leaving the top of the ballot blank (and then she barely won) with her photo radar revenue stunt she turned off voters from voting democrat to this day. and yes I am a liberal democrat but a (non ignorant) southern white trash democrat and part native american not an elitist. republicans are just as smart as me and probably smarter then you. our edge is they are evil and self destructive like nixon. yeah I know hillary clinton was are nixon.

    • Saying that Republicans are evil is just a self satisfying story concocted to give you a sense of superiority.

      We have a different vision for how you produce better outcomes for the poor, for minorities and for special education students.

      Look at the 2015 results. Is there anything in there that gives you the slightest bit of evidence that your vision is working?

      Academic productivity has fallen 20% since 2000, 5% from 2011 to 2015 alone.

      The National Assessment for the period 2011 to 2015 saw math scores fall for the first time ever – ever. These scores have been collected since 1977 (NAEP). Reading scores, which had been on an upward trend, did not improve. The percentage of parents grading their child’s school an A, fell from an all-time high of 36% to an all-time 47 year low of 24% (Gallup). The percentage of teachers very satisfied with their job as a teacher fell an eyepopping 37% (Metlife survey).

      By comparison, there is a lot of data suggesting Arizona is on the right path.

      Since Arizona started on the school choice path in 1993, murders by juveniles have dropped from 70 to 7 despite a tripling in our at-risk population. A recent, scholarly, Urban Institute study ranked Arizona schools 13th in the nation in academics. Local districts like Chandler Unified, Mesa, and Vail have seen the percentage of parents grading their child’s school an A rise from 38% in the 90’s to 75% currently (Westgroup). Every scientific indicator suggests that Arizona is on the right path.

      The media rankings based on things like Wallet Hub lack a scientific foundation.

      This blog honors all things that lead to more expensive government. But, we know that more expensive government destroys jobs and job creation. Running extremely frugal government is the most powerful indicator for job creation.

      • Nope, until you show proof of the accusations of crimes you’ve made against thousands of people you are not taken seriously.

        Accusing people of crimes with intent to cause harm to them is a crime. You are a criminal.

        You’re a proven liar, racist, and spread propaganda and conspiracy theories.

        You are a disgraced former politician who was caught using government systems on government time using sock puppets to spread lies and promote yourself politically.

        Shameless and embarrassing are the only words that come to mind when I see your posts, Falcon9.

        • Sometimes you bring something to the marketplace of ideas – most of the time you bring a sneer and snark hoping to distract people by defecating in your pants.

          • under republican government people on access were refused operations and they died. before access we were the only state that did not have medicade and I would see cans with pictures of children begging for money for their operation. so much for charity being an alternative to government healthcare. yes you are evil herr huppenthal.

          • Oh! Solid burn! If you’re in 7th grade.

            If only there was some evidence you could show for your accusations that thousands of US scientists are defrauding the US taxpayer, or proof of vote buying and widespread voter fraud.

            If there was some evidence you could provide proving your accusation that Arizona school superintendents are stealing from the schools they’re supposed to support….

            Well, I guess if you could prove anything, I’d have to shut up, wouldn’t I?

            I am so sick of “conservatives’ not taking personal responsibility for their words. You actually are fake news. Go pound sand.

  2. Big difference between Finland and the US – they provide academic feedback on a sampling basis while we provide it on a census basis. You can get a sense of the damage this causes by looking at the divergence between our fourth grade scores and our eighth grade scores. Our fourth grade school scores are going up significantly while, relative to fourth grade, our 8th grade scores are falling.

    Everything is all screwed up. The federal government should be doing national samples only. The state should be doing state samples. School districts should be doing district samples. Instead doing 200 million tests a year (not a typo) and getting very poor information- for instance we only get quality state feedback every four years – we could get quality feedback three times a year with one-tenth the number of tests. How was Finland able to pull this off?

    I certainly could have used a more accurate and timely system. I lead Arizona to the highest combined math and reading gains in the nation. Unfortunately, that data didn’t come till 10 months after the election.

  3. The one party dictatorship legislators whose votes rule, based on the policies given to them by their masters at Amway, ALEC and Goldwater, are very sensitive to criticism on their votes. They should be proud to defend them, however they object when teacher groups, school boards throughout the State, parent groups, and economic development groups, all question their, “I always vote at my party’s call, without thinking for myself at all,” attitude. Remember, the State legislature’s support for public schools is not subject to their benevolence, but is AN OBLIGATION of the State Constitution. The support of private schools is PROHIBITED by the State Constitution. Darn pesky law!

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