A newly released survey of Southern Arizona educators shows critical teacher attraction and retention issues, with many reporting low job satisfaction, feeling underappreciated and having to take second jobs.

The survey was conducted by Tucson Values Teachers, an organization that works to attract and retain quality teachers. The group hopes the survey results will serve as a call to action to support education.

The study, which was sent out to more than 10,000 teachers, received responses from 1,600-plus educators currently working in Southern Arizona classrooms. The results, which have been described by education officials as alarming, are consistent with what is being seen across the state and nation, said Jacquelyn Jackson, executive director of Tucson Values Teachers. Some of the key findings include:

  • Sixty-one percent rated their overall job satisfaction at or near a neutral rating, only 31 percent indicated they are satisfied.
  • More than a quarter said they are not likely to be teaching in this region five years from now, with 86 percent saying they are not likely or only somewhat likely to recommend their profession to others.
  • Nearly a third of all teachers reported having a second nonteaching job, with 73 percent putting in hours during the workweek after leaving the classroom.
  • The average teacher spends more than $1,000 per year on classroom-related expenses. About one-third of all teachers are spending more than 3 percent of their gross salaries on classroom-related expenses.
  • The average full-time teacher reported working nearly 60 hours per week and spending an additional 124 hours per year on professional development and summer preparation.

“This survey provides data that paints a true picture of life as a teacher and the challenges our community will face if we don’t quickly find a way to attract teachers and keep our educators in the classroom,” Jackson said.

For Frances Banales, president of the Tucson Education Association, the union that represents teachers in the Tucson Unified School District, the challenges will continue to drive teachers away if left unaddressed.

“If you look at the aspects of dissatisfaction, you’ll find it doesn’t have anything to do with the work — that’s a commitment we make, and we love making a difference in children’s lives,” Banales said. “It’s other aspects that add value to what we do and the appreciation of what we do that is yielding these results.”

The teachers’ negative job perceptions, the survey said, stem from not having the resources and support to be successful at their job, recognition of their efforts and successes, opportunities for career advancement and work-life balance.

Add to that how teachers perceive their profession and how they feel community members view the profession. Most teachers aligned themselves with occupations that help others, like nursing or social work, or professional occupations like law and engineering. But many feel the community equates their jobs with those that have little to do with teaching, like child-care providers, probation officers and secretaries.

And some of the greatest dissatisfaction relates to salary and benefits, which the teachers, on average, rated a 2.5 on a seven-point scale.

Though most don’t go into teaching for the pay, the attitude that making the choice to go into education is like taking a vow of poverty is unacceptable, said Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association, who blamed many of the challenges on policy and budget decisions being made by the Legislature.

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, whose district employs nearly 5,000 teachers, said he is working to address not only salary issues but making child care more accessible and affordable for his employees and to improve communication between all levels of the region’s largest district.

“I know we have very dedicated people in our schools, all of whom have the opportunity to do other things but they choose to be here with our kids,” Sanchez said. “As a community, we should be equally dedicated to them.”

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

Education writer for #ThisIsTucson. Mom of one.