Column: Arizona Teachers Academy offers scholarship to bring more highly qualified teachers to K-12 classrooms

There are few things in life more powerful than a good teacher. Inspiring, impactful and effective – devoted educators make a difference in the lives of our children every day.

Like so many states, Arizona faces daunting challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining high-quality K-12 teachers – particularly in low-income and rural classrooms. Estimates show that more than 3,000 teaching positions in 2017-18 were filled by candidates lacking a standard teaching certificate.

Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona are on the front lines of efforts to address this shortage as the state’s leading supplier of the teaching workforce. Through the Arizona Teachers Academy – a bold and innovative program created in partnership with Governor Doug Ducey in 2017 – the public universities are working to bring more teachers to Arizona’s classrooms.  

During this year’s State of the State address, Governor Ducey called on the universities to expand the Arizona Teachers Academy to meet the need for more quality teachers across the state. With the infusion of $21 million proposed in the Governor’s budget, enrollment in Arizona Teachers Academy programs could grow by as many as 3,000 students at the universities.

Key to the success of the academy is a dedicated funding source from the state to bring more teachers to Arizona’s classrooms and address a critical teacher shortage.

The Arizona Teachers Academy began two years ago after now-Regent Fred DuVal proposed to the Governor an innovative concept to finance teacher training through quality programs offered at Arizona’s public universities. Governor Ducey announced the initiative, asking our universities to create a plan to develop the next generation of Arizona public school teachers and expand the number of qualified teachers in our state.  The Arizona Board of Regents, on which I am proud to serve, has supported this effort from the beginning and understands the importance of its mission.

Within a matter of months, Arizona Teachers Academy programs were put into place at each of the universities, offering varied programs with an identical promise – commit to teach in an Arizona classroom and your and tuition and fees will be covered – allowing students to graduate from teacher training programs with little to no cost for their education. Approximately 90 graduates of the academy are already working in K-12 schools throughout our state.  But this is only the start and we have a long way to go to fill the demand in our schools.

Currently, universities cover costs to educate the academy’s students – approximately $4,500 per student. This results in demand exceeding supply as the universities are not able to provide for all prospective students interested in bachelor’s, master’s and non-degree certification programs offered at the universities. An influx of resources to support the Arizona Teachers Academy as proposed by the Governor will help ensure more Arizona teachers receive the training they need.

The Governor’s funding proposal has the potential to bring thousands of new, professionally trained teachers to Arizona’s classrooms – representing a meaningful step toward addressing our teacher supply and retention crisis.

Karrin Taylor Robson is the founder and president of Arizona Strategies and a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, shares how public universities are a powerhouse for the state economy.

Karrin Taylor Robson

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