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Arizona schools facing shortage of substitute teachers

PHOENIX -- During the recent recession, many out-of- work teachers and others with college degrees signed up to be substitute teachers to help make ends meet.

Now, with the economy improving, many of those who were substitutes have found full-time jobs. That's causing a problem in Arizona classrooms. School districts are reporting that they're suffering from a shortage of substitute teachers.

"If the economy rebounds, and more people are at work, that can lead to fewer folks available to do the important work of covering classes and continuing instruction when a teacher has to be out," said Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association.

In some schools, teachers are having to give up their prep periods to substitute for a colleague who has called in sick. Morrill said that's not good.

"For every time that a teacher is asked to cover somebody else's class, that's an hour out of the day that can't be used to return phone calls to parents, check grades or go over grades with students, or prepare that next hour's lesson plan," he said.

Morrill said Fridays are becoming more difficult to get substitute teachers. "If you're planning a three-day weekend, or like the idea of having a three-day weekend, a substitute is under no obligation to be a substitute on any given day, so you might decide not to," Morrill said.

One way to attract more substitute teachers, Morrill said, is for the state to allocate more money to schools.

"The cost of doing business goes up every year in a school district, just like any other business," he said. "I know that sometimes, it seems like we relate everything to funding needs, but the funding needs in this state are so great when it comes to our schools, that they actually connect to a lot of things."

Morrill added that, "We're having a problem with systemic approaches to education funding, and the substitute shortages that we see in different places, to different degrees around the state, are kind of symptomatic of that."

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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