State Addressing Teacher Shortage By Requiring Fewer Credentials

A new bill in one state looks to address the teacher shortage by cutting teacher standards to attract more educators.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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teacher standards

It’s not just hearsay to many. Across the board, states are reporting a teacher shortage crisis. Teachers are burned-out from COVID protocols, lack of pay, and the growing culture war vetting them as the bad guys. Many state Legislatures are coming up with ways to address the growing concern as historic pay raises, and enticing college initiatives for teachers who stay in-state. But one southwest state has caught some attention for the controversial proposal Republican leaders have introduced. In Arizona, a bill looks to lower teacher standards to draw in more educators. 

Arizona Senate Bill 1159 was introduced by state Republicans in January as a measure to address the growing teacher shortage in the Copper State. The situation has gotten so bad, that recent reports show that nearly one in three classrooms in Arizona are without a permanent teacher. The new proposal regarding teacher standards passed through the full Senate on March 3rd with a 16-12 vote straight down party lines. On April 11th, the bill was given initial House voting approval following a heated debate from minority Democratic opposers. 

The teacher standards proposal would allow unaccredited teachers with “outside experience” in the private sector to get a “subject-matter certificate” to teach in grades 6-12. Even further, the new proposal would remove all restrictions for grades 5 and under, which means that all someone would need to become a teacher would be to hold any college degree along with proof of outside experience. 

teacher standards

The new law only furthers Arizona’s already easy-access plan to become a teacher in the state. SB 1159 would act as an extension to a law passed in 2017 that allowed people with experience in the private sector to quickly attain subject matter certificates quickly. After being enacted, the new teacher standards law set Arizona on track to become one of the easiest states to become a teacher in.

Mesa Republican Rep. Michelle Udall, a backer of the bill, assured her constituents on Monday that the legislation was not about “watering down” teacher standards. She and other Republicans believe it does the opposite and will attract more future teachers to the state. But Democrats see the bill in a different way.

Democratic Rep. Reginald Bolding, the minority leader, stated that creating more “flexibility” for aspiring teachers won’t help the teacher shortage. To back this claim up, Democratic Rep. Kelly Butler pointed to the some 180 thousand currently qualified and certified teachers in the state who are currently not employed with a school. Butler, and others, think this is the key to the issue, not teacher standards.

teacher standards

In Arizona, teacher pay is low in comparison to the nation’s averages. Close to the bottom of the barrel, Arizona’s average teacher salary ranks 46th in the nation, according to the National Education Association (NEA). The state also has some of the largest class sizes in America, with a ratio of nearly 26 kids per teacher. Similarly, many democrats believe recently proposed legislation other than this teacher standards bill has led to teachers leaving the profession in Arizona. Curriculum transparency legislation is also working its way through government, and it is said to place added scrutiny on teachers.

The proposed teacher standards legislation now awaits a formal House vote. If passed, the bill will return to the Senate due to some minor amendments. After full approval, it would head to the desk of Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Ducey is likely to sign the bill into law, as he also showed support for a similar law passed in 2017.