Calvin Baker: Costly licensing fees impede new teachers

2014-07-07T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T09:19:09Z Calvin Baker: Costly licensing fees impede new teachersBy Calvin Baker Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Hillary Stacey is a bright and energetic young science teacher. She inspires students to follow her towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Parents love her. Hillary’s equally able principal calls her a “rock star.”

We at the Vail School District hired Hillary out of Montana as a new teacher just one year ago.

Hillary recently wrote to respectfully inform me — as much as she loves her students, job, and school — she wouldn’t have come here if she had known how much time and money would be required to get her teacher license in Arizona.

If Hillary does everything correct the first time and finds the least expensive classes, it will cost her a minimum of $1,217 in fees and tuition (plus her time, gas and related costs) to convert her perfectly good teaching license in Montana to a teaching license in Arizona. All the hoops she must jump through will not make her a better chemistry teacher. The experience is simply taking her time away from her students, money out of her pocket, and wind out of her sails.

Hillary’s $32,500 starting teacher salary is already instantly reduced to less than $29,000 in buying power by Arizona’s 11.6 percent required payment for retirement and disability (far more than most other states). Add in social security along with federal and state taxes and there is precious little left for living expenses and paying back those huge college loans. The hassles and costs of licensing add insult to injury — like the cost and burden of traffic school without a ticket.

Hillary and I are not whining. We will survive in our little corner of Arizona’s educational system. Hillary will jump through the hoops and get her Arizona license. We’ll keep scanning the country to find top quality teachers like Hillary. Vail will continue to excel.

A warning flag, however, should be observed. We should learn from Child Protective Services and the Veterans Affairs Health Care that a system mired in regulations and starved for resources is going to break. The helpless among us will pay the price.

These are solvable problems. A change in the law could grant full reciprocity for teacher licensing. A tax on the sale of Arizona’s abundant natural resources (and birthright of our young citizens) would take care of the teacher salary issue.

As we enter another political season and elect new legislators, the question is whether or not the political will exists to improve the health of Arizona’s educational system.

Imagine the best and brightest young teachers like Hillary not regretting their choice, but telling their “rock star” friends that Arizona is the place to teach. Imagine the benefits that would be reaped by our students and our state. It can happen — if we want it to.

Calvin Baker is superintendent of the Vail School District. Contact him at bakerc@vail.k12.az.us

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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