Teacher shortage threatens economic growth, data shows | New
Urged on by a governor vowing to “fight like hell” for teacher pay increases, Kentucky lawmakers are expected to address the issue in next year’s legislative session which is set to begin Jan. 4.
“We need to start recognizing that the teacher shortage is actually a workforce issue,” not just an education issue, said current SREB chairman and former Kentucky education commissioner , Stephen Pruitt. “We need to think about this in a more holistic way. “
Much of the South reports teacher shortages in math, science, special education, and vocational and technical education, forcing those states to become too dependent on uncertified and long-term substitute teachers, the SREB reported. Some states cannot find all the English-speaking arts teachers they need.
Pruitt said the troubling trend is starting to affect areas where there was once a surplus of teachers, highlighting the recent decision by the Oklahoma Board of Education to approve hundreds of emergency teaching certifications for districts that do not report any candidate for employment. The three largest categories of emergency certifications in this state are primary education, early childhood education, and English.
The shortage of qualified teachers comes as automation continues to transform more and more sectors of the economy, a transition that educators could help manage. The Southern Regional Education Board has estimated that without higher levels of education and skills training, 18 million Southerners could be unemployed or trapped in low-wage jobs by 2025.
“Our economy is going to really suffer” if we don’t start fixing this problem, said Pruitt.
The average salary of teachers in SREB states reached $ 55,205 in 2019-2020, an increase of 3.5% from the previous year, or about 16% lower than the national average of $ 64,133 , reported the SREB. Adjusting for inflation, average teacher salaries in these states are lower than in the 1980s, the SREB said.
In Kentucky, the average salary for teachers in 2019-2020 was $ 53,907, which is lower than the national and regional averages for that year. Factoring in health insurance, pension plan costs, and other expenses, the average take home salary of a Kentucky teacher that year was $ 31,516.
Yet data from the Southern Regional Education Board – which covers Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia – have shown that paying is only part of the problem.
The average salary of teachers in SREB states increased by 11.9% over the six-year period to 2019-2020, or about 2% each year, and yet shortages persist.
Another part of the problem is the lack of support and trust that teachers feel, said Megan Boren, SREB project manager.
Boren said teachers told SREB in various qualitative interviews that they perpetually “need to do more with less” from their state government.
The pandemic has only fueled burnout, Boren said.
“It only exacerbates our problem of scarcity,” Boren said.
The key issues that keep coming back are the lack of support from colleagues and administrators, the feeling of being under-prepared for their job before taking it and also the compensation “but this is sort of the fourth or fifth on their list, ”Boren said.
Teachers need to feel valued and have real opportunities for advancement and career development – not just better pay – said Boren, adding what they often tell him: “I really want to enjoy my job again” .
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.