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Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
11:31 AM Tue, Nov. 20th

Organic Matter: Study casts doubt on perceived teacher shortage

Stories of teacher shortages have been reported off-and-on for over a year.

But a new study by Morrison Institute for Public Policy done for Arizona State University now suggests teacher numbers are more than adequate.

It shows a demand for 6,880 new teachers annually in Arizona falling by almost 1,000 after 2006.

In addition, Arizona will have 1.2 teachers available for every position through 2010, the study states.

"Until the Morrison Institute study, the nature and extent of teacher supply and demand in Arizona was not well understood," Penny Kotterman, president of the Arizona Education Association, said.

"However, their data provide an important new tool for teacher recruitment and training and also for understanding several issues that affect a teacher's classroom experience."

While presenting a better overall picture the study also notes some teacher shortages are present and expected in certain situations.

Most notably affected are specialty fields like special education and Limited English Proficiency.

"Special education is a very difficult field in which to find teachers actually trained in the area," Susan Chan, Kingman Academy of Learning district administrator, said.

"Arizona is experiencing such a shortage in special education teachers that many have to go through an emergency certification process.

That's good for one year as long as the teacher is working toward certification."

KAL has six full-time special education teachers and no teaching vacancies at present, Chan said.

The Kingman Elementary School District has no teaching vacancies at present.

But 15 educators plan to retire at the end of the 2002-2003 year, Greg Parker, director of human resources for KUSD, said.

"Math and special education are the two fields we seem to have the most trouble in filling spots," Parker said.

"Last year, we had just two openings in math and only four applicants."

Parker went to three recruiting fairs in other states last year and talked with only five teachers of special education.

"They're getting smarter these days," he said.

"What they're doing is minoring in special education or getting an endorsement in it so they can get a foot in the door through special education.

They'll spend time in a district until an opening comes up and then move on to their major."

English, social studies and physical education are areas with teacher surpluses, Parker said.

Eagle Academy in Golden Valley has two full time special education teachers and no teaching vacancies at present.

"But we always encourage anyone interested in teaching to fill out an application with us because we never know what may happen," Jay Roberts, Eagle principal, said.

Arizona is ranked 26th in the nation in teacher pay, and is roughly $4,600 behind the national average.

One section of the ASU study focused on why certified (but inactive) teachers left Arizona or never entered the classroom.

It found that while salary is a factor, "conditions of education" are an even more important consideration.

As many as one-third of those teachers would consider teaching again in the state, if conditions, especially those in the classroom, were changed, the report states.

The study went on to recommend policy changes in the areas of teacher production and recruitment, classroom environment, compensation and data tracking.

"One of the reasons that a comprehensive study like this has not been done before is the difficulty in collecting data for the different components of teacher demand and supply," Rebecca Gau, Morrison Institute policy analyst, said.

"The assistance from several state agencies, school districts and Arizona's teacher training institutions was vital."

The report may be viewed on the Internet at www.morrisoninstitute.org.

* * *

Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix is working toward providing passengers with "world-class, hassle-free transportation," to quote aviation director David Krietor.

Plans have been announced to construct a $700 million underground passenger train that will carry travelers from economy parking facilities to underground stations at the airport's three terminals.

It is expected to be operational in five years.

Phoenix city officials studied several modern transportation systems before selecting one similar to those at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and San Francisco and Newark Liberty international airports, according to an Associated Press story.

Project completion could prompt Mohave County residents to shy away from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.

One of the more attractive aspects of utilizing McCarran instead of Sky Harbor is the shorter distance from Kingman, roughly 100 miles vs.

180.

Terry Organ is the Miner's education, health and weather reporter.