KOLD Investigates: Education superintendent responds to long-term sub story

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas was surprised to see how the head of southern Arizona's largest school district is handling a dependence on long-term substitute teachers.

"Certainly we would hope that's not the perfect answer, but we have a teacher shortage here in Arizona, no doubt about it," she said.

Douglas was referring to Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo admitting that the district's reliance on long-term subs to fill vacant positions meant for highly qualified full-time teachers as "not what I want, it's what we have".

Trujillo said his district, which is by far the largest in Pima County, had 92 positions covered by long-term subs. That's more than twice the next highest at Sunnyside Unified School District.

Douglas said every district has unique needs, but she would expect there to be even more of a reliance on long-term subs in rural areas of Arizona.

Her team has been working on improving the process for current teachers to renew their certification. Douglas said they are extending the time for each certification, so they won't need to be renewed as often, as well as making the process available online so teachers won't have to spend a day traveling to Maricopa County and back.

"It doesn't matter how we do it, we just need to get it done for our teachers," said Douglas.

In full support of raises, the state superintendent said some districts should start considering alternative solutions, like placing those qualified teachers who deserve raises at the head of classes that are larger than they were in previous years.

"You can either pay people more or you can pay more people," she said. "That's kind of school board budgeting 101...if we want to pay teachers better, do we look at not astronomical class sizes, but do we have to take a serious look at the numbers?"

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