- As of Thursday, Kansas schools have 450 open positions, more than twice as many as usual for this time of year, with classes scheduled to start in a matter of weeks.
- The state is in the midst of a legal battle over school funding and has cut tenure protections in recent years.
- Districts have resorted to posting billboards calling for teacher applicants while relying on substitutes.
Teacher shortages have become a looming problem nationwide, although Kansas’ situation is particularly acute. The state has the lowest average pay for teachers anywhere in the country and recently passed a law that makes it easier to jail teachers for teaching material deemed to be offensive. Last year, almost twice as many teachers retired as in 2012 — the product of an aging population but potentially dissatisfaction, as well.
“I find it increasingly difficult to convince young people that education is a profession worth considering, and I have some veterans who think about leaving,” Tim Hallacy, superintendent of Silver Lake Schools, told the Huffington Post. “In the next three years I think we’ll have maybe the worst teacher shortage in the country — I think most of that is self-inflicted.”
Across the country, enrollment in teacher preparation programs has dropped steeply, particularly in large states. Rural areas, in particular, are hard-hit, with key positions sometimes standing open for years, and hard-to-fill roles like those for upper-level science courses can be a non-starter. And states often feel trapped: Lowering certification requirements, which many have done, raises questions of quality, particularly in the current high-stakes testing environment.