No degree needed to begin teaching in Arizona public schools, as the state looks to resolve a critical shortage.

Arizona has had a teacher shortage for so long that there are 20-year veterans who owe their careers to it. As far back as 2000, the state was allowing schools to hire anyone with a degree and help them qualify as teachers after the fact.

The teacher shortage is a dire issue. According to the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association, as of January this year almost 2000 classrooms in the state don’t have an officially assigned teacher, relying on rotating subs. 3000 more classrooms are under unsupervised student teachers, teachers of other classes pulling double-duty, or ‘subject experts,’ un-certified community members with experience or expertise in the topic being taught.

State Bill 1159, signed by Arizona governor Doug Ducey, says there’s no credentials and no degree needed to begin teaching now, only proof of enrollment in a college degree program.

“Signing this bill into law furthers Governor Ducey’s pro-education policies by giving schools the flexibility to establish their own locally designed school leadership preparation programs and will allow those without a bachelor’s degree to start training to become a teacher while also completing their degree. This flexibility will help strengthen the teacher talent pipeline, provide the opportunity for more Arizonans to become teachers, and allow for locally driven solutions,” says a statement from Governor Ducey’s administration.

The Arizona Educators Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state, fought the legislation. “You have to have some experience. It’s going to allow people to do on the job training, and that’s where it’s scary,” Marisol Garcia, the President of the AEA, said.

Whichever side has the right of it, Arizona needs to seriously address the root causes behind its teacher shortage – poor wages, no respect or support, and a critical lack of resources. How are these new teachers going to be trained, when there wasn’t the budget to retain the old ones? Widening the candidate pool doesn’t help when there’s no water in it.

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