DACA/DREAM Frontera Fund News

Education and DACA: Teachers and Students at Risk

Written by Carmen Cornejo

Arizona has a big problem. Year after year its leaders refuse to invest in education. On important metrics such as spending per pupil and salaries for teachers, Arizona ranks at the bottom in the nation.

The result: Arizona is in a teacher shortage crisis, and the crisis is going to get worse soon.

It is no secret that teachers are abandoning the profession due to lack of proper economic and overall support.

The state is short 1,328 teachers this year, and some of those vacancies are being filled by people who do not meet all teaching certification standards.

A recent report by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute stated that:

  • 42 percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 left the profession within three years.
  • 74 percent of Arizona school administrators surveyed said their campuses are experiencing a shortage of teachers.
  • When adjusted for cost of living, Arizona elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation. High school teacher pay ranks 48th out of the 50 states.

The situation in rural communities is worse.

Again, a Morrison Institute statewide survey found that 85 percent of rural school administrators said hiring new teachers is somewhat or extremely difficult.

To add insult to injury, immigrant rights organizations are reporting that with the end of the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects immigrant youth from deportation, the teaching profession will be affected across the nation and especially in Arizona.

Yes, many DREAMers chose to serve their country by going to college, becoming educators and working with the two-year permit granted by DACA. They did this, for the most part, in the communities and schools where they were educated.

It is calculated that the United States could lose up to 20,000 educators, many of them bilingual, starting March 6, 2018 due to the cascading end of DACA.

In Arizona, 1,000 DACA beneficiaries are teachers or work in education-related jobs, according to a study by the Migration Policy Institute. This may not seem like much, but these educators tend to return to the neighborhoods where they grew up, to schools that face significant challenges due to the lack of resources. Instead of rewarding them, this country is about to dismiss them.

This loss of teachers could have a detrimental effect on students.

DACA educators share many life experiences with their students, starting with living in Spanish-speaking or bilingual homes. Educators with strong ties to their communities can teach students how to navigate the process of transforming a perceived challenge into an asset.

This is not the way investment in education or the future is done. This is yet another of the many ways turning away DACA beneficiaries goes against the interests of the nation.