Lawmakers discuss Kentucky teacher shortage; JCTA weighs in

Lawmakers discuss Kentucky teacher shortage; JCTA weighs in
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 5:49 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The House Education Committee met in Frankfort on Tuesday to discuss Kentucky educators’ ideas to fix the problem.

Many are asking how bad the state’s teacher shortage, and the House Education Committee heard educators’ ideas to combat the teacher shortage.

Dr. Jason Glass, Kentucky’s education commissioner, said the state’s teacher turnover rate reached a new high, passing 20% last year.

Kentucky’s teacher turnover rate is the percentage of teachers that do not return to teaching or new teachers that leave before the end of the school year.

Glass added a good national benchmark for this number is around 15%-16%, and Kentucky has hovered above that percentage the last several years. He also explained the state has hundreds, if not several thousand openings in place right now.

”Well, one effect is that districts are having to be less choosy when it comes to selecting teacher candidates,” Glass said. “Some superintendents have told me they feel fortunate to get one applicant for open positions. Districts are also increasing having to rely on emergency certifications, which allow people to teach in areas outside of their certifications to fill open positions.”

Glass said three main issues contributing to the teacher shortage are educators feeling a lack of pay, support and respect. Some lawmakers expressed the challenges teachers face are different based on who is talking.

”The number one issue that I hear from teachers who have talked to me is that they do not feel supported by the administration,” Rep. Russell Webber (R-Shepherdsville) said. “They express concerns. Those concerns are largely ignored.”

A coalition of Kentucky educators came up with six recommendations to ease Kentucky’s teacher shortage:

  1. Comprehensive study of public education-wage and benefit analysis of the teaching profession.
  2. Resolution to create a navigable system of alternative teacher certification.
  3. Web portal of resources for teacher recruitment (including a statewide application).
  4. Resolution to address multiple certification issues-teacher testing, admission to teacher education programs, state-to-state reciprocity.
  5. Clarify acceptable educator behaviors and provide clear and appropriate penalties for violations.
  6. Fund a marketing campaign to highlight the importance of education and profession.

Jefferson County Teacher’s Association treasurer Maddie Shepard said she heard those suggestions at the meeting in-person and has concerns.

”We don’t need small increments more of something or small increments less, teacher pay for along time has not kept up with market rates.” Shepard said. ”Teachers in JCPS and outside of JCPS, and globally, really have experienced the manifestations of a lot of trauma that happened during the pandemic. That has shown up in behavior, that has shown up in attendance, it’s shown up in the trauma that kids bring into the classroom.”

Glass said he expects fixing the teacher shortage will take several years.

”We need solutions at the scale of the problem,” Glass said.

The House Education Committee gathers again on Feb. 14.