Ky. Educators express alarming concern for teacher shortage

KY. Educators Express Alarming Concern for Teacher Shortage
Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 12:25 PM EDT
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Ky. (WBKO) - The state of Kentucky is facing a critical teacher shortage that is expected to impact generations for years to come. Many school districts are struggling to fill their classrooms with quality teachers.

Seventy-two percent of current teachers are at risk of leaving their jobs soon, according to recent statistics from the Kentucky Department of Education.

“A 30,000 person leave this year was anticipated for teachers, most of those being brand new teachers, or those at retirement age. So, that’s a significant number to try to recoup,” said Kathy Burris, Director of Instruction with Barren County Schools.

Educators also attribute the COVID-19 pandemic and stress as another reason for the mass exodus which has led to the shortage.

“I think COVID had a role to play in that stress level, teaching has always been a stressful job, and that has just kind of amplified over the past few years,” said Burris.

With the current shortage, the potential future numbers are alarming as well. This is reflected in the number of student teachers, or lack thereof.

“That was a real sign that that there are issues,” said Burris.

Barren County says they don’t have any student teachers signed up for this fall from Western Kentucky University.

“Typically, we will have anywhere from 10 to 15 or 20 throughout the district. So that was a real sign that there are issues,” said Burris.

Warren County says they have 22 student teachers signed up for the fall within their district.

Meanwhile, the Communications Officer for the Department of Education, Toni Tatman, expressed her concerns in a Twitter thread recently, citing not only the shortage, but the shortage of quality teachers as well saying, “Our workforce, our communities, our schools & our students cannot thrive if we cannot, as a state, recruit & retain a high-quality teacher workforce.”

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“A good quality teacher makes all the difference,” said Burris.

WKU is also seeing a slight dip in enrollment in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences when comparing 2017 to 2021.

According to a data set sent to WBKO News, there were 294 first-time freshmen in 2017, and in 2021, there were 276. In 2017, there were 802 seniors and in 2021 there were 581.

Meanwhile, WKU offers incentives for future teachers by announcing the Educator Discount for In-state and Border-state Teachers.

“Teaching has always been about loving kids, not just about curriculum,” said Burris.

While the teacher shortage is really a nationwide crisis, the ability to recruit, and retain teachers in a timely manner will be critical for our future generations.

“I’m afraid we’re going to be feeling the impact of this for several years to come,” said Burris.

The good news for WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences is that the freshmen class increased by 58 when comparing 2020 and 2021. However, it will be a few more years before that class begins student teaching.

Meanwhile, Representative Steve Riley (R-Barren) tells WBKO News that the General Assembly hopes to address the teacher shortage in the interim, before the next session. Riley says has plans to meet with Education Commissioner Jason Glass next month to discuss solutions as well.

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