- As Colorado lawmakers consider several new education bills this year, at least two are directed toward attracting and retailing teachers in the state’s more remote rural school districts. These measures would add to several programs created last year through legislation, which was designed to attract new teachers and has already added about 800 more potential educators to the pipeline, Chalkbeat reports.
- Senate Bill 3 would provide up to $25,000 — up to $5,000 per year over five years — in loan forgiveness for teachers who occupy hard-to-fill positions, while Senate Bill 9 would increase the amount and number of stipends available for rural teachers seeking additional education. Two other bills focus on mentorship — Senate Bill 190 provides a $2,000 stipend for mentors working with student teachers, and House Bill 1002 would create a principal mentorship program, Chalkbeat reports.
- While such measures can reduce the sense of isolation felt by some rural teachers and increase their feeling of being valued, some rural superintendents feel state legislators' efforts to restore full funding to schools may have a bigger impact.
The teacher shortage mainly affects a subset of fields and/or subject areas, including math, science, and special education, as well as certain geographic areas such as rural school districts. These non-urban ares can have a lot to offer for potential educators — a sense of community, stronger parental support and, in some cases, more individualized supports for students.
However, there are also challenges to recruitment in these areas. Rural school districts can make a teacher feel isolated from colleagues and from professional development opportunities. Technology can aid in these issues, but many school districts still lack adequate access to tech and other resources that many other districts have access to, including broadband access. Local teacher supplements are often smaller in rural counties as well, leaving many of these educators struggling to make an adequate living.
There are a number of solutions state and local entities can pursue in mitigating these issues. Incentives at the state level can help level that playing field, and 'grow your own' teacher programs also provide a way to enlarge the talent pipeline. Districts sometimes find other creative incentives, including housing subsidies, smaller class sizes and other wraparound services.
Even larger school districts are having issues attracting and retaining teachers. While housing offerings have proven more successful in some districts as compared to others, there are additional options for providing incentives, as well. Perks such as gym memberships and free or low-cost child care can make the difference to teachers looking for a better work-life balance. Surveying teachers in your district could be beneficial in determining which options appeal most to relevant educators.