I taught U.S. Government in high school for 17 years in Mesa, Arizona. Like many teachers, I spent my own money on pencils and copy paper and spent many hours away from family to be the best teacher I could be for each of my students. I even came to the Capitol with my fellow educators to lobby my legislators against education budget cuts because I am dedicated to my students and profession.
As president of the largest professional association for public school employees in Arizona, I’ve heard from many teachers across the state about how much they love teaching your children and how they feel inspired by these future scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs. Then they tell me how high-stakes testing, overcrowded classrooms and inadequate or outdated school materials have drained their joy of teaching.
The current status quo in Arizona is to underfund our public schools, label our schools and students as failures based on a single test score, and then blame our teachers. This agenda is driving teachers out of the classroom and destroying our public education system, as evidenced by the recent survey by school administrators reporting more than 8,300 open teacher positions across the state. Arizona can’t afford for our teachers to become an endangered species.
Teachers have the awesome responsibility of inspiring the love of learning in our children and educating our state’s future workforce, but too many are leaving the state for higher wages and better working conditions. If Arizona legislators want to recruit and retain teachers, then I urge them to give teachers the support they need to be successful by restoring education funding immediately. If Arizonans want to fix the teacher shortage in our state, then our state must provide competitive salaries for teachers and provide classrooms with adequate supplies and updated textbooks and technology.
If legislators want to raise teacher morale, then respect our teachers as professionals. Stop forcing teachers to teach to the test by removing the single test score measure from teacher evaluations. Each child is unique and has his own learning style, so give teachers the freedom to teach and allow them the flexibility and creativity to engage individual students. By enacting the right policies, lawmakers can make Arizona a great place to teach.
— Joe Thomas is president of the Arizona Education Association.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.