‘Critical shortage,’ Kentucky working to find, recruit thousands of teachers

Published: Jul. 25, 2019 at 10:28 PM EDT
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Trends come and go within the walls of any school, but one trend that includes teachers has remained and become a problem for leaders in Kentucky’s Department of Education.

The Department says as of January 2019 more than 5,000 teaching positions were available across the Bluegrass. It's a problem that has been going on for years, but state leaders are now calling it a ‘critical shortage’ of teachers.

With college students pursuing degrees in education down 13%, the department is building a new campaign to fill the void that is impacting Kentucky classrooms.

“The reason it's so serious is not just in the numbers,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Wayne D. Lewis Junior. “If I think about this from a parent’s perspective, how serious would it be for me if it were my kid that didn't have a qualified, well-certified teacher in her classroom.”

Dr. Lewis says the shortages come across the board, but there are major shortfalls in special education, languages and career development.

He says the new campaign will focus on ways to recruit and retain teachers in the field. Some of the ideas include using programs like Teach for America, working with universities to find alternative certification routes and hiring based on real work experience.

The problems with recruitment are issues across the state, but there are increasingly large problems in poverty-stricken areas and rural parts of Kentucky.

Scott County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hub took time to discuss the problems with WKYT’s Nick Oliver on Thursday. Hub says his county does not face any irregular challenges with recruitment, but he has seen fewer applicants apply over his time leading the district.

Scott County, Kentucky’s largest growing county, employs more than 600 teachers and with a new high school being added to the mix, Hub says the ideal location of central Kentucky makes choosing to start a career for his schools an easy choice, but he knows that choice isn’t as easy to make in other sections of the state.

He says he likes the direction the state is traveling, especially focused on hiring based on experience. The superintendent says he started his career out of the education field but later found his home in teaching and leading.

“What we have to understand is that these are folks that we may be getting on their second, third, or fourth career. What that means is the experience they bring to the classroom is something that we need to consider,” said Hub.

Hub blames a portion of the shortage on the dispersion of applicants. His district sees many applicants in the math and science field but not as many in the history and physical education field, while other portions of the state have the opposite.

The Department of Education says they hope to launch the campaign in the coming weeks officially. They say one reason many potential educators could be moving away from a classroom is the state's looming pension crisis.

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