Good evening and welcome to Arizona horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, we'll hear about an effort to help fight the state's teacher shortage. Also tonight: why some see the valley as a laboratory for urban development. And we'll learn about a move to push back against poverty in Guadalupe. Those stories next, on Arizona Horizon. Arizona "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Members of your PBS station.
Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. The state supreme court today heard a challenge to Arizona’s expansion of Medicaid. Republican lawmakers argued that the hospital fee that's used to help fund the expansion is really a tax and thus required a 2-thirds vote in the legislature. A lower court ruled against the idea that the fee was a tax. No word on when the "Supreme" court will issue a ruling. The expansion covers 400-thousand Arizonans through access, the state's Medicaid program. And Senator John McCain could receive treatment for brain cancer through clinical trials in New Mexico. The Albuquerque journal reports that McCain’s treatment could be moved to the university of New Mexico comprehensive cancer center. Researchers say the trials could offer a new way of fighting McCain’s form of brain cancer and that the 1st-human trials have shown promise. McCain has thus far received treatment at the mayo clinic here in phoenix and the national institutes of health outside Washington. A new survey indicates that nearly 74-percent of Arizona schools report a shortage of classroom teachers, with over 13-hundred teaching positions sitting vacant around the state. Arizona's public universities and community colleges have teamed up to address the issue through the Arizona Teacher’s Academy. The academy just started in august, but producer Allyssa Adams and photographer Rob Mcjannet caught up with one academy teacher who says she's already seeing results from her training.
PKG: The first step for teacher candidates Elisha Simone there are a lot of parallels in her lessons and her life. Sometimes it takes a lot of step to get to the final goal. She spent years, focused on different classrooms until she landed here teaching government to seniors in high school.
Alicia Szymonik: They have a lot of things to say. For me it is exciting when it gives them voice in the classroom.
PKG: She transforms to a serious teach skewer and that is the support teachers embrace.
PKG: She is part of the Arizona teacher’s academy, a program that aims to get more teachers like her into public schools.
PKG: I really like what the initiative. And what would be involved in it.
PKG: Somebody you can talk to on a teacher level and friend level. They are so awesome. They have really great ideas.
Ted Simons: Joining us now with more on the Arizona teacher’s academy is Arizona board of regent’s president, Eileen Klein. What are we talking about here?
Eileen Klein: Thinking about Arizona teachers as a critical workforce for our state. Our three public universities after a call to action in the state of the state got together and started to think about how can we really help bring very talented individuals no matter where they are in their education, commit them to teaching and provide them the support they will stay in the classroom.
Ted Simons: And we are talking 200 new teachers for the initial part of the program.
Eileen Klein: We have already had 200 teachers identified. We have had a lot of other students they they would like to be part of it. There is a deal to be made for the students who agree become part of the academy they need to serve each year and get a year for year waver of their cost.
Ted Simons: Free tuition every year they teach in the state and this is at all three universities. Are there different patterns?
Eileen Klein: That is really the fantastic thing about the academy. Each approach that works for students they want to highlight. At the University of Arizona, they are working with master level students. They are figure out how to get them into classroom whether they come from teachers or are career changes. Au is working with a grow our own partnership. They answer credentials and they can work and get those individuals a complete degree in education.
Ted Simons: It sounds like you take folks that are straight out of high school. You also take folks that are looking at a second career.
Eileen Klein: We have to cast a wide net. As we heard, the school districts themselves report that three quarters of them have some sort of shortage. We know when we look at the success rates of high schools in familiar across the state that students are having trouble getting access to the curriculum they need
Ted Simons: This is obviously a program to address the shortage. The shortage is there and real. Why does the shortage exist? What is going on?
Eileen Klein: For many reasons. One is far and away. We know just the experience today of being a teacher. We have to readily acknowledge while we want to grow more teachers for Arizona and encourage people to get into this important career we have to acknowledge what they face once in the classroom is going to be difficult. We have teachers buried in regulations and paperwork. Many are responsible for serving meals. All sorts of regulations and burdens are required from the state and from the federal government. At the same time, pay absolutely has to be acknowledged. I think everybody recognizes pay needs to go up. And at the state level we have to take a look at the policies. These are big signals that can discourage a potential workforce.
Ted Simons: We are hearing they are reconsidering the grading process because the first round didn't go well.
Eileen Klein: To what end? The AZ merit is not used for college admission and teachers can't get the data they need. So the state has to think hard about all the ways in which we can help improve the environmental factors for teachers. We can't ignore the marketplace as the job market continues to improve people will seek other opportunities. Talented individuals like our teaching workforce is going to be sought after.
Ted Simons: I can understand folks saying this doesn't address the systemic issue. It is low pay and general funding is the root of the problem. How much can the Arizona teacher’s academy succeed when the root of the problem is still there?
Eileen Klein: Well, I think the teachers’ academy has opportunities to really help innovate in a teaching workforce. To recognize teaching as a workforce issue and not just a noble profession and vocation. For the people who want to commit long term and serve in schools of need we want them out there free of debt and financial burdens from the cost of their education. After that, we are making sure they get partnered with a key mentor, they get the professional development they need and I think that is going to help us as the chief resource for educating teachers in the state, our universities, understand better what we need to do to adapt and adjust to this market reality.
Ted Simons: Indeed. Some folks came out of the teacher’s academy in the first year, great guns, and 4-5 years, I know teachers after four years it seems like it is all of a sudden you hit a wall.
Eileen Klein: Absolutely. We want to see what we can do to overcome that so instead those individuals can become the master teachers who are then beginning to mentor others. We need to make sure they get the support they need.
Ted Simons: Will this continue? 200 to start this year.
Eileen Klein: 200 to start. We made it clear to be able to scale, because the state doesn't provide financial aid to students, we want to be sure we can expended the program and make this benefit available to many more other individuals. We have had a lot of interest and been upfront with the legislature that we really want this program to grow and we think this is with one of the best places the legislature can invest.
Ted Simons: How much does this cost the universities?
Eileen Klein: Currently we are making it work. To scale we will need to talk more because there is no support coming from the state. We are all about innovating and finding a new way to get teachers to the classroom right now.
Ted Simons: It sounds encouraging. We will like to get more going but it is one tool in the toolbox.
Eileen Klein: That is right. We will keep working at it.
Ted Simons: Thank you so much for joining us. Coming up on Arizona horizon, we'll hear about leaders around the world looking at phoenix as a laboratory for urban development.
A program proposed by Gov. Doug Ducey to help ease Arizona’s teacher shortage has started. The Arizona Teachers Academy gives 200 new teachers free tuition for every year they teach in the state.
We take you to an Arizona Teachers Academy classroom then hear from Arizona Board of Regents president Eileen Klein about that program.
Teacher candidate Alicia Szymonik says the tuition forgiveness is a big deal for her as a single mother.
Program manager Cindy Ballantyne says the program wants to turn new teachers into change makers at their schools. “I‘m hoping that what we’re doing can provide them with the leadership tools and skills that they can start making those changes.”
Arizona Board of Regents president Eileen Klein says the Arizona Teachers Academy is “a targeted effort to enhance Arizona‘s teacher workforce.” Teachers are critical workforce for our state.