Arizona earned another F this week when a national study ranked the state dead last in school funding — 51st out of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
A nationwide comparison study published Monday at wallethub.com revealed nothing especially new, finding our state at or near the bottom in many categories including 51st worst state for teachers.
Analysts considered 23 relevant metrics to analyze research data from a variety of sources, including U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Education Association, National Center for Education Statistics, and others to develop a rigorous methodology for their rankings.
Two key categories were considered to determine the best states for teachers, Opportunity & Competition and Academic & Work Environment — Arizona came in 50th and 51st in those columns.
The lowest annual salaries paid to teachers were in New Hampshire, Florida, Maine and Arizona with Hawaii coming in last. Not surprisingly, Arizona came in 46th worst for teacher turnover rates.
For teacher-to-student ratio, Vermont, North Dakota, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire rounded out the top five best list; while Arizona again came in dead last.
New York, District of Columbia, Alaska, New Jersey and Massachusetts took the top five spots for per pupil spending; while came in 47th, with only Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah and Idaho spending less.
This compared to an analysis last year published at governing.com, which used U.S. Census Bureau data to rank Arizona last in per student instruction spending.
Not surprisingly, with near-lowest pay, the highest teacher-to-student ratio nationally and the 47th least spent per pupil, Arizona schools ranked among the least competitive for teachers at 4th worst.
Only Alaska, Nevada and Maryland had a harder time attracting qualified talent.
In her Feb. 4 speech before the Arizona House of Representatives, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman pointed to a growing teacher recruitment crisis and its impact on students and the state’s economic future.
“This teacher shortage has a real impact on our students’ and our state’s future,” Ms. Hoffman said. “Let’s consider, for example, that the national average of students enrolled in high school physics is 40 percent. In Arizona, that average is 20 percent. This is due in part to the fact that we have only 150 physics teachers across our entire state. How can we expect our students to become engineers, scientists, or doctors when we are not providing them access to physics, calculus, or other high-level STEM coursework?”
The state serves more than 1.1 million students with 1,700 traditional public schools, according to the Arizona Department of Education (azed.gov) and the superintendent said better teacher pay is needed to improve recruitment efforts.
“Student success is not possible without highly-qualified teachers in the classroom. We absolutely must advance teacher recruitment and retention which means competitive pay and benefits across the board,” Ms. Hoffman said.
While funding and outcomes for Arizona schools compare poorly to other states, these are not merely challenge for students and educators.
Without a well-educated workforce, the state will have a hard time attracting employers, too, and the economy will suffer for it.
That was the message of university leaders during a presentation entitled “A Snapshot of Arizona’s Young Talent,” which was hosted in May at Arizona State University West in Phoenix.
The West Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance — a partnership comprised of the Buckeye Valley, Glendale, Peoria, Surprise Regional, Southwest Valley and Wickenburg chambers – sponsored the event, which revealed data about the state’s K-12 schools and higher learning institutions.
While state universities and other institutions are growing to keep pace with Arizona’s record-setting population growth, new college graduates cannot account for those workers retiring or leaving the market, according to Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Ron Shoopman.
“It we responsible for education; we’re responsible, in our minds, for the economy of this state,” Mr. Shoopman said.
He said the board had completed a six-month economic impact study, which revealed the university system’s economic impact as comparable to that of the state’s military bases.
“Very few people realize that we are an $11 billion impact with nearly 85,000 jobs created,” Mr. Shoopman said. “We’re part of the economy in a very real way, as long as the product we deliver will provide the workforce for the future of Arizona.”
But while the state system produce a record number of graduates year after year, workers are still leaving the market faster than new workers are arriving.
“Those we turn out of our universities will be the folks who lead us into the future,” Mr. Shoopman said. “They’ve got a big chore on their hands and we don’t have enough of them. We’re doing our best: 43,000 degrees this year — a total of the three institutions with almost half of them from ASU — and it’s not enough to replace those that are retiring. We need to do more.”