Dear Commons Community,
It is August 1st and as we near the beginning of a new school year, staffing our nation’s schools becomes a major priority for many districts. However, there is a teacher shortage crisis brewing in a number of states including California, New York, and Oklahoma. To address its “massive” shortage, Colorado is holding town hall meetings around the state to gather suggestions. Here is an excerpt from a July 30th Denver Post article:
“Colorado can do a lot of things, big and small, to end a massive K-12 teacher shortage, including respecting and helping people working in the state’s classrooms, officials learned at a town hall meeting Friday.
About 50 local teachers, administrators, school board members and residents echoed that notion during a meeting Friday on the Colorado State University campus, organized by state education officials to gather ideas that districts can use to tackle the shortfall of teachers.
Certainly, salaries are a problem. First-year teachers in some rural districts earn about $25,000 a year.
“When you are making that much, and facing college debt anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000, you are going to think twice about going into teaching,” said Robert Mitchell, director of educator preparation for the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
Another factor that contributes to the shortage is the perception that teachers are not professionals, at least on the same level as doctors or lawyers, said Rob Eberle, an 18-year classroom veteran with the Thompson School District in Loveland.
“Outside of this room, we are not seen as professionals,” said Eberle, who called on state education officials to hammer home the message that teachers are not just employees.
“It’s important that teachers are heard and that we have a place at the table,” Eberle said. “We need a consistent voice saying to everyone that we are professionals. Unfortunately, there is a segment of the population that spends a great deal of time bashing public education.”
“They don’t bash doctors or lawyers, but we are being targeted, ” Eberle said.
As many as 3,000 more teachers are needed to lead classrooms across the state, with rural districts being hit especially hard, Mitchell said.
Not only are college graduates shying away from teaching, but nearly 30 percent of the state’s teachers are retirement age, data show.
“One school district in the northeast corner of the state had zero applicants for an elementary teacher position,” Mitchell said. “What we have been doing in the past (to recruit and retain teachers) is not sustainable.”
…Colorado is leaking teachers to other states that offer better salaries and benefits, participants at one town hall meeting said…teachers in northern Colorado are moving across the state line to Wyoming to automatically get a pay raise of at least $10,000 a year.
Others said teachers need more support from administrators, some of whom have not been in the classroom for years.”
This issue is only going to get worse before it gets better especially as the large baby boomer teacher population retires from the profession.