PHOENIX - Nearly one out of every 10 educators plans to leave the profession as soon as they can, a new statewide survey shows.
But it shows that among all of the approximately 32,000 who responded - virtually all of them teachers - adequate support from school leadership is the issue cited as being the most important in deciding whether to continue teaching. That was followed by their effectiveness in teaching and a collegial atmosphere among staff. Salary came in fourth.
John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, said that is not surprising.
"A competitive salary is necessary,'' he said. But Wright said that, by itself, is insufficient to keep people in the profession.
"You can't pay someone enough to like a bad job,'' he said.
This is the first extensive statewide survey of its kind. A pilot survey last year included only 5,200 teachers in 19 school districts.
The AEA sponsored the survey along with the governor's office, the Department of Education and the Arizona School Administrators Association.
Wright said the survey underlines how important it is for teachers to believe they are in a situation where they can be effective. And that, he said, starts at the top with the governing board and the district superintendent.
"Those sorts of issues start with a governing board that sets good policy and allows their administrators to run schools, and administrators that create the right working environment to allow the teachers to provide instruction,'' Wright said.
But he conceded that - unlike something like higher teacher salaries - cannot be mandated by the Legislature. State School Superintendent Tom Horne said his agency already is taking steps to deal with leadership from the top down.
He said highly qualified school principals are serving as "mentors'' to others. The eventual goal, said Horne, is to ensure that every new principal has someone else to help teach them how to do the job right.
"We expect to have over 100 (mentors) trained by next year,'' Horne said.
Both the House and Senate budget proposals include $46 million to boost teacher pay statewide. But the House plan requires that half of that to be given out not as across-the-board raises but based instead on performance.
Gov. Janet Napolitano sought $50 million to guarantee that no teacher will be earning less than $33,000 a year.
The survey shows that 53 percent of those who responded said they intend to stay at their current school as long as they can.
Another 26 percent said they will remain in their current position until something better comes along.
A total of 5 percent responded they want to stay in education but leave their current school as soon as possible; 6 percent want to continue to teach - but in some other school district.
Napolitano, in a prepared statement, said the results of the survey should be used to "help create school working environments that are supportive of recruiting and retaining the best teachers throughout the state.''
Readers who want to see what teachers in their own area are saying can access a school-by-school breakdown at "http://www.aztwc.org/reports/''. Not all schools participated in the survey or had a sufficient response to record.