Teacher retention not as easy as 1, 2, 3

Teacher Departures By the Numbers

District         Teachers 15-16    Left after 15-16   Teachers 16-17   Left after 16-17

Deer Valley       1,868                248                             1,968               266

Dysart                 1,181               193                              1,220               191

Peoria               2,053                259                             2,094               238


Fourth-grade teacher Joseph Dunham prepares for the first day of class July 27, 2017 at Countryside Elementary in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/Independent Newsmedia]
Richard Smith
Independent Newsmedia

Although voters in 2016 approved Proposition 123, which gave pay raises and other forms of compensation, it has done little to stem the tide of teachers leaving the classroom at two of the three largest school districts in the West Valley.

Only Peoria Unified School District saw fewer teachers leaving after the 2016-17 school year — both in terms of numbers and percentage of the total certified staff — as compared with 2015-16. Numbers were flat in the Dysart Unified School District, though it continues to face the highest percentage of its certified staff leaving.  And the Deer Valley Unified School District lost slightly more teachers after 2016-17 than in 2015-16.

“We are appreciative of Proposition 123 in that we were able to provide increased salaries for teachers and staff,” said Zachery Fountain, Dysart spokesman. “Teaching is a valuable service for our communities and additional support for the teaching profession and public schools are appreciated.”

After the 2015-16 school year, Peoria Unified replaced 12.6 percent of the 2,053 teachers on staff to begin that year. Following the 2016-17 school year,  11.3 percent of the 2,094 PUSD teachers left.

PUSD spokeswoman Erin Dunsey said fueled by Proposition 123, returning teachers for the 2016-17 school year received a 6.81 percent increase in pay, a 3.18 percent one-time stipend, and a retention stipend of $250-$1,300, depending on the consecutive years of service.

After 2015-16, Deer Valley lost 13.3 percent of the 1,868 certified teachers on staff to begin that year. Following the 2016-17 school year, 13.5 percent of the 1,968 certified Deer Valley teachers left the district.

For its Proposition 123 funds, Deer Valley developed a formula based on teaching experience and school credits that has led to varying but across-the-board salary increases for returning and incoming teachers.

Maria Leyva, president of Deer Valley Education Association, said during a May governing board meeting teachers feel they are overworked and under-appreciated. The union president asked the board at the time to pass a resolution for a permanent annual salary increase for employees until a salary schedule can be brought back.

The Deer Valley board approved a 1 percent pay raise for teachers later in that meeting.

Dysart, the smallest of these districts, saw 16.3 percent of its 1,181 certified teachers leave in 2015-16. One year later, with improved compensation, that figure dropped slightly to 15.6 percent of 1,220 teachers that started 2016-17.

Mr. Fountain stated that in 2016-17, returning teachers received a 5.04 percent pay increase, up to a 4 percent retroactive pay increase for previous service, and a 4 percent one-time payment from Proposition 123.

He stated that for the 2017-18 school year, Dysart teachers will receive a 1.2 percent inflation increase and a 1.06 percent increase that was approved by the legislature. This totals a 2.26 percent increase.

Both Ms. Dunsey and Mr. Fountain said their districts receive teacher decisions not to renew contracts on an individual basis and do not catalogue the teachers’ reasons for leaving or see any common themes in their departures.  And both declined to speculate as to the reasons why they left.

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