On the Bus from Michigan

To deal with a shortage of teachers, one school district thought of sending a bus to Michigan to bring teachers for a visit. It didn’t work out, but it pointed to the need for something to fill positions.

The state’s 296 school districts had more than 1,100 teaching vacancies as of June. Dale Dennis, deputy state education commissioner, said shortages are most acute in special education, math, science, vocational education, foreign language and music. A shortage of counselors also is an issue, he said.

As of last week, Garden City still had 22 teaching vacancies, including in special education, high school English and math and middle school math. If it can’t fill all the jobs, it will start the school year next month with long-term substitutes, its officials told The Hutchinson News.

But bigger problems appear to be looming. According to a recent state audit, one in four current teachers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years. The state has about 35,600 full-time teachers.

In Wichita, the state’s largest district, 730 teachers, counselors, social workers, librarians and nurses will be eligible to retire within the next five years. They include 48 English and 35 social studies teachers, where schools now have relatively few vacancies.

“It just continues to get worse,” said Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, the committee’s chairwoman. “People aren’t going into teaching.”

You’ll hear low pay as one reason for the shortage. Certainly pay is one factor that people consider when choosing a profession. But there are other factors that should be considered.

Has Kansas done anything to make the certification process less onerous? Perhaps we should have a discussion of whether certification is even useful in guaranteeing good teachers. After all, if you’re a mid-career professional who always had a desire to enter teaching, would you really want to take a bunch of education classes that might appear to be of questionable value?

How about moving away from the union rule, where everyone is treated the same, regardless of performance?

Teacher Shortage, the Hays Daily News, July 23.

See also: Schools Chief Wants Proof, Topeka Capital-Journal, July 29

One thing everyone agrees on is there aren’t enough teachers in Kansas. [Alexa] Posny said 50 percent of the state’s teachers can retire in the next five years, and more than 30 percent of first-year teachers will leave the system within the first three years. On that note, she applauds the recent board decision to lower the grade-point average requirement for teachers coming from out of state.

“If a teacher has been teaching for 18 or 20 years very successfully, and possibly 20 years ago their grade-point average wasn’t quite up to snuff, is that enough to say that a person is not qualified as a teacher?” she asked.

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