Friday, March 25, 2016

National Teacher Shortage (What and Why)

California is not the only state suffering with a teacher shortage.

Kansas struggled to staff its classrooms for the 2015-2016 school year.

Here are a couple of reports detailing what (and sometimes why).

Let's start with Kansas:

The teacher shortage in Kansas is getting worse, and it doesn’t look to get better anytime soon.

Kansas City, Kan., has been hit hard by the lack of education funding from the state.

They are looking to hire dozens of teachers but struggling to find anyone to fill those positions.

Some critics contend that Governor Sam Brownback's massive tax and spending cuts hurt public education. Others point to the removal of teacher tenure.

And yet, the report contends that districts are looking for teachers, but cannot find any. These districts must have the money to hire teachers, or why would they be seeking them in the first place?

Then again:

A big reason is pay. Kansas teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation, earning $9,000 less on average than other teachers across the nation. Also, Governor Sam Brownback’s policies make it easier to fire teachers without giving them an appeal has made many unhappy.

The economy is still rough for many working Americans. The Middle Class ideals of a happy family owning their own home is slipping away from many. Regulations from Washington have slowed private sector growth considerably, too.

But why are teachers paid so little?!

The Huffington Post was unsparing in its criticism of the conservative Republican Governor and legislature:

Those familiar with the situation say it is not surprising. A number of factors have recently converged to create a teacher shortage in the Sunflower State. Some of these factors are the result of actions taken by the state government and legislature. Over the past few years, Kansas has cut back on the job protections that give teachers due process rights, created a new school funding system that a district court panel ruled unconstitutional and cut taxes so severely that some districts lacked the revenue to stay open last school year.

Economic woes in Kansas and California? California has one of the  most liberal governors in the country, and Kansas one of the most conservative, and yet they both are struggling with teacher shortages.

Granted, every state will suffering under a moribund economy, due to poor federal domestic policy.

Are there other states struggling with teacher shortages?


Once upon a time there were so many licensed teachers in Minnesota looking for jobs that for every one job opening, there were hundreds upon hundreds of applicants. Now, area schools are having a much harder time filling those positions.

A recent article by the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about how state legislators are being urged by education experts and teachers unions to do something about the shortage, particularly in areas such as special education.

The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes is one of the most liberal states in the union. A strong pro-union, progressive state, too.

Why hasn't HuffPo talked about this shortage?

Point of fact, they have reported on it. Click here. The state has to hire non-credentialed staff to supplement the need. More people are leaving the profession than working there. How about the starting salary? Too low for college graduates with huge debt.

HuffPo plays the race card, suggesting that the Minnesota student body is diverse, but most teachers are white. Does race really play a large reason why most teachers do not "make it" in the classroom? Oakland, CA has a large minority population. Aren't most of the teachers who come and go also of minority background?

Here's a report from the Redwood Falls Gazette -- today!

Denise Specht, Education Minnesota president, did not mince words earlier this week when she talked about an issue that is gaining attention.

“We are facing a crisis in Minnesota,” said Specht.

The issue is that fewer people are choosing to pursue a degree in education creating a shortage of teachers throughout Minnesota and across the country.

“This is a reality,” said Bob Tews, Cedar Mountain School District superintendent. “We are seeing it at all levels and in all positions.”

Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent agreed, adding this is not something that happened overnight.

Yet, he added, it seems like in the past couple of years the issue has increased dramatically.

The Wadema Pioneer Journal brought up some disturbing trends in special education, where the needs are particularly acute:

Class sizes are increasing, and for whatever reason, there seems to be more special education students than there were a couple of decades ago. Depression and anxiety has gone through the roof with students of all ages and they are bringing their challenges to teachers, who are then being asked to deal with it.

More students pushed into special ed? Why?! Kids are depressed, anxious. What for? The news media tells some harrowing stories about future prospects for young people. A culture of victimization seems to be setting in. How  many kids are getting the proper parenting they need at home? Kids without stable families and parents will struggle to mature and overcome challenges.

Broken families creating broken kids and frustrating the teaching profession?

Minnesota Education President Denise Specht offered some succinct points on the problem:

There is a teacher shortage in Minnesota and it has become a crisis, according to Education Minnesota, the state’s largest teachers union.

Fewer people are entering the field and more are leaving it, said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. She is a fourth generation teacher who says working in a classroom is getting tougher.

“Teachers are frustrated by giant class sizes, the insane pressure to raise test scores on deeply flawed tests and the lack of autonomy to respond to our students,” she said.

"Lack of autonomy"-- why?

Other states report struggles with teacher staffing, too.

Halfway through the school year, South Florida districts still don't have enough teachers, with openings across grade levels and subject areas.

Students in those classes for the most part are being taught by substitutes.

District leaders say experienced teachers are retiring at the same time fewer college graduates are choosing to go into education, making it more difficult to fill empty slots in their classrooms.

"Those factors are coming together," Broward schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said, "and creating a perfect storm."

College students do not want to be teachers. What are they studying? How many high school graduate are even going to college?

North Carolina. This editorial cites low pay. A few reports in 2014 detailed how other states were poaching teachers from North Carolina. Even though the legislature enacted a high set of salary increases for new teachers, the incentive was not high enough, especially for veteran teachers who received a relatively smaller bump in their pay.

Texas. This article suggests the problem is more complicated than money issues.

This article offers a neat summary of the causes:

A big factor: Far fewer college students are enrolling in teacher training programs, as we reported this spring, exacerbating a long-standing shortage of instructors in special education, science and English as a second language.


Add to those enrollment numbers the stagnant pay, attrition, retirements, an improving economy and politicized fights over tenure, and you've got the makings of a genuine problem in some regions.

Nevada has a slightly different reason for its shortage:

In some districts, such as Clark County, which is home to Las Vegas, population growth has meant the district can't build enough schools to meet demand or find enough teachers, especially when you can potentially make more money with tips as a card dealer in a casino.

High demand plus low pay: a terrible recipe for disaster.

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