Archive for Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kansas faces looming teacher shortage

September 8, 2013


For the past several years, Kansas education officials have been poring over a set of numbers, almost like worried baseball fans watching their team fade out of contention in a pennant race.

The numbers are in an obscure document called the "licensed personnel report," and it breaks out, in excruciating detail, all the demographic data about the state's K-12 education workforce.

And those numbers do not show a promising trend. This year, according to the latest version of the report that was delivered to the Kansas State Board of Education in August, 31 percent of all the people employed as teachers in public schools are age 50 or over.

That means they already have, or soon will have, enough points in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to retire.

Officials also worry that if those teachers all retire as soon as they're eligible, there won't be nearly enough new teachers coming out of colleges and universities to take their place.

"Are we on the cusp of something, as far as a real, real need?" Scott Myers, head of the state's teacher licensure division, asked rhetorically. "As the baby-boomers retire, there are not as many people in the workforce."

State officials, including Kansas lawmakers, have been fretting about those numbers for several years. But oddly, the concern eased temporarily during the last three or four years as the Great Recession actually helped delay the inevitable.

"The recession has been a double-edged sword," Myers said. "Actually, it helped with the teacher shortage in that, unfortunately, districts have had to eliminate positions, so (schools) just weren't looking for as many people. And then the other part is, people are fearful about retiring because who knows what's going to happen with the stock market? So people just work longer."

In Lawrence, local school officials say the demographic trends haven't presented a problem, at least so far.

"Fortunately, here in Lawrence, there are always people who want to work and live in Lawrence, so we haven't experienced what some districts have experienced," said Anna Stubblefield, director of human resources for the Lawrence school district.

Last spring, the Lawrence district had 33 certified teachers retire, but it hired 121 new teachers to fill those and other open positions.

At the start of this school year, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said, the district had only eight positions remaining open, and most of those were in special education, a commonly hard-to-fill area where the district is almost always accepting applications.

"As I've gone out to recruit, I find people wherever I go who have some sort of connection to Lawrence and are always willing to come to Lawrence," Stubblefield said.

But as the nation's economy slowly recovers, and those baby-boomer teachers continue to get older, Myers said there will eventually be a day of reckoning, at least for other parts of Kansas.

In recent years, he noted, the state has taken measures to address the shortage. For example, lawmakers have eased rules about KPERS eligibility to make it easier for districts to hire teachers who previously retired from another district.

The state has also made it easier for people from other professions to switch careers by allowing people with degrees in math, science or other subject areas to teach at the secondary level while going back to college to earn a master's degree in education.

But Myers said he believes there is another problem that deters people from teaching that the state needs to address: the relatively low salaries teachers earn compared to other professionals.

"I think they need to be paid as a true profession, and treated as a true profession, and all the things that go along with that," Myers said.

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  • Comments

    toe 7 months ago

    Only a fool would want to be a government teacher.


    gccs14r 7 months, 1 week ago

    We need to pay teachers a lot more than we do now, but we also need them to have a Master's in their subject matter. They not only need to be able to teach the material to the students (and know when the textbook has errors and be able to prove it), but they need to be able to explain the lessons and defend their teaching methodology to ignorant and hostile parents.


    Larry Sturm 7 months, 1 week ago

    First we have to quit cutting education dollars and pay teachers comparable wages to the private sector for their college degrees. Two the education is what brings economic growth people moving into a community check out the education system.


    bobberboy 7 months, 1 week ago

    Great job on attracking talent to the state Browncrud !!!!!!!


    Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

    ALEC cannot be trusted = Sam Brownback cannot be trusted.

    Behind the scenes at ALEC, the nuts and bolts of lobbying and crafting legislation is done by large corporate defense firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon. A law firm with strong ties to the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries, it has long used ALEC’s ability to get a wide swath of state laws enacted to further the interests of its corporate clients.

    ALEC’s campaigns and model legislation have run the gamut of issues, but all have either protected or promoted a corporate revenue stream, often at the expense of consumers. For example, ALEC has worked on behalf of:

    • Oil companies to undermine climate change proponents.

    • Pharmaceutical manufacturers, arguing that states should be banned from importing prescription drugs.

    • Telecom firms to block local authorities from offering cheap or free municipally-owned broadband.

    • Insurance companies to prevent state insurance commissioners from requiring insurers to meet strengthened accounting and auditing rules.

    • Big banks, recommending that seniors be forced to give up their homes via reverse mortgages in order to receive Medicaid.

    • The asbestos industry, trying to shut the courthouse door to Americans suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.

    • Enron to deregulate the utility industries, which eventually caused the U.S. to lose what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) estimated as $5 trillion in market value.


    Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

    Public education is not failing our children. It is the ALEC right wing Kansas GOP that is failing our children and public education.

    The problem is the republican party and has been for the past 30 years. This ALEC right wing party wants to do away with the public education and turn it over to those who fund their elections.

    The next step will offering up new textbooks that subscribe to ALEC right wing fundamentalist thinking.

    K-12 virtual school model is sponsored by the right wing thinkers as a tool to break down the public school model.

    These ALEC thinkers cut more and more dollars from the public school budgets then come back and tell us public education is failing. It is the ALEC right wing GOP party of Kansas that is failing our children and sinking the system.


    wastewatcher 7 months, 1 week ago

    Teacher Retirement is really very good in spite of what you have read here. If someone starts teaching at 23 years of age and teaches every year until age 65, they can retire with a pension of 73% of their highest three years salary. And with social security they will make more in retirement than while working. Seems like a good deal to me and one that could could stand to be reviewed for taxpayer savings. Teachers have a better pension plan than most Kansans do, so quit whining .


    nascar 7 months, 1 week ago

    Forced to teach to tests that measure so little and cost a fortune to administer along with my favorite, being called a thug, led me to leave the teaching ranks. Knowing that there are many in our state who would like to see public schools "fail" so that education can be privatized is beyond scary.


    Jean Robart 7 months, 1 week ago

    I must say that many years, I bit on the story going around that there was a shortage of teachers (not in Kansas) I immediately went back to school to work on a graduate degree. Guess what happened? I got my teaching certificate back (undergrad education major) and there was no shortage of teachers. I do not, however regret one cent of what I spent on grad school. I enjoy learning.


    Scott Morgan 7 months, 1 week ago

    KSManimal, Tip o hat to you, Mr. or Mz Manimal you a very dedicated instructor.

    We must remember our most complicated group of youth, the Exceptional Children of the district when thinking about teaching numbers.

    Not in the way so much money is wasted, but think about this group from a core philosophy. LPS spends plenty on a small population of students. Tossing money at problems, but not making progress.

    LPS...........hires far far far too many temp. licensed instructors for the huge task of educating this group of high potential students. This equates to the bad policy of not hiring teachers trained in Special Education. Why?

    IEP instructors are in great demand now and since fido was a pup. Yet, LPS constantly hires staff who promise to work for certification. Nice way of saying, the district like many others in Kansas hire English, History, Science, PE, and ? Majors when they can not fill the position with a certified licensed instructor.

    Some states know the investment in At-Risk-Exceptional Children is well worth the effort.

    KU/K-state acting arm and arm with our State Board of Education know why we lag so far behind forward thinking states which surround Kansas. Why?

    Our state does not have an undergraduate teaching degree in Special Education. Emporia State is now starting a program I hear.

    For those of you who think it's a simple field, schools like U of Arizona have 15 different bachelor degrees in teaching to specific learning disabilities.

    In short, there is no such thing as a SPED student.

    In other words, all learning problems from gifted to the lowest functioning students, all seen in our schools are so so different. All take expertise to maximize the potential these wonderful students have.

    Unlike English teachers, even Science and Mathematics undergraduates, all very important, our IEP population deserve the same attention. I may add, the state provides great young teachers in these areas. Lawrence can boast of of having some of the best general education instructors, more than hold our own with any district in any state.

    Exceptional Children majors require clinic schools, much more psychology instruction, abnormal settings including medical education, and a deeper investment in real life placements. In moving to this area was shocked to find not a state institution hosted a clinic school.

    A medical education, and a deeper investment in college student real life placements. In moving to the area was shocked to find not a state institution ho Not unusual for a college student to have 5-7 graded student teaching placements just to gain a teaching degree.

    Oh my! A school where the toughest of all our youth/parents from anywhere in the state have the best education while providing our young teachers a chance to learn in real time.


    Sam Crow 7 months, 1 week ago


    How about ranking the teachers and doubling the income of the top 20% . Then get rid of the bottom 10%.

    But the education establisment refuses to allow comparison.


    KSManimal 7 months, 1 week ago

    "Last spring, the Lawrence district had 33 certified teachers retire, but it hired 121 new teachers to fill those and other open positions."

    So....33 retirees, but 121 open positions. So, why did openings exceed retirements by 88? Could those 88 perhaps have left Lawrence for greener teaching pastures? Or perhaps left teaching altogether for greener professional pastures? Looks like there's a lot more to this shortage than simply replacing retirees.....

    "At the start of this school year, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said, the district had only eight positions remaining open, and most of those were in special education, a commonly hard-to-fill area where the district is almost always accepting applications.

    "As I've gone out to recruit, I find people wherever I go who have some sort of connection to Lawrence and are always willing to come to Lawrence," Stubblefield said."

    Somehow starting the year with EIGHT unfilled positions doesn't look to me like people are "always willing to come to Lawrence." Looks more like a shortage to me.


    IreneAdler84 7 months, 1 week ago

    And why would anyone in their right mind incur tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt so that they could enter into a profession that does not pay enough to pay back those loans within a reasonable period of time?


    jimmyjms 7 months, 1 week ago

    As Kansas places zero importance on education, and teachers are paid a pittance to perform a job that requires a skill-set that includes performing miracles on the regular, is anyone surprised by this?

    "Won't somebody think of the children," cry the pearl-clutching conservatives, but they do not mean it.


    1southernjayhawk 7 months, 1 week ago

    Recruit from conservative states.


    Mike Ford 7 months, 1 week ago

    this is to be expected as teachers are bashed, underpaid, and forced to deal with parents who don't raise their kids. My late mother was a career teacher she experienced all of this.


    del888 7 months, 1 week ago

    Seems to me that there are probably many people out there who could teach at the elementary level, but don't have a teaching degree. After all, most parents out there could teach grades 1-5. I understand the need for a masters degree to teach something specialized like chemistry, physics, high level math and calculus, programming, etc. But you don't need a masters degree to teach 3rd grade spelling and reading. Think about it, who knows more about English (for example), an English teacher or the editor of a local newspaper or magazine? But the editor can't teach because he doesn't have a degree in teaching. Maybe lighten up on the requirements for a teacher and the schools out there in the rural areas would attract more prospects.


    Cheryl Nelsen 7 months, 1 week ago

    Or how about more benefits, and legislators not trying to break their unions, and someone coming to their senses and getting away from testing kids who could care less about the results, and quit thinking you'll get better teachers if you tie student test results to the teacher who happens to have them at the time of the testing. The list could go on and on.


    Stuart Sweeney 7 months, 1 week ago

    Do you think decent pay in light of the education requirements might encourage more teachers to enter the field?


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