A teacher shortage crisis could be on the horizon, and the Kentucky General Assembly is already looking at ways to confront the issue.
Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Jason Glass testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Education on Tuesday to discuss ways Kentucky can improve teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
Glass said about 72% of teachers in Kentucky – about 42,000 – are at-risk of leaving the profession. Groups that are considered “at-risk” include teachers who are eligible to retire, teachers who retired and came back to the classroom, and teachers with less than five years of experience.
Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Lexington, said the teacher shortage is a national trend Kentucky needs to “get out in front of.” One of his suggestions included recruiting unemployed, qualified teachers from other states.
“If we’re going to move Kentucky forward, we definitely need to be aggressive about pursuing those teachers,” Timoney added.
Glass’s presentation to the committee included a list of ideas to improve teacher recruitment and retention in the Commonwealth. Addressing the compensation crisis, increasing the desirability of teaching, paying student teachers, creating new scholarships and offering grants were on the list.
Timoney, who is an educator, said student teaching was a difficult time for him since it was unpaid and student teachers are often not allowed to work other jobs.
“There’s a fiscal demand there that we need to address, so I support that idea,” Timoney said.
During the discussion, Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, posed a different question. He asked Glass what the legislature can do to improve its relationship and perception among Kentucky teachers.
“I think there is often a perception within the teaching profession that the legislature doesn’t care and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Carroll said.
To keep fostering a positive relationship with teachers, Glass suggested the legislature continue to fund and increase money for education. Glass also mentioned some teachers feel like they’re being targeted or blamed for some of society’s problems.
“The legislature really has to consider our teachers in Kentucky and our teachers that are in your communities. What is the language that we’re using around them and is this going to make them feel supported, valued, where we can keep attracting people into teaching and keep those great teachers in our communities?” Glass said.
One obstacle facing teachers is the Praxis teacher certification exam. Glass said the Praxis is expensive to take and can be difficult to pass.
Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, questioned the relevancy of the Praxis and whether or not Kentucky can pursue other avenues to measure qualifications without sacrificing quality. Glass said there are an “abundance” of opinions on the Praxis and different ideas on alternatives.
In closing, committee co-chair Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, asked her fellow lawmakers to be mindful when considering ways to make the teacher profession more accessible.
“Although I know we’re trying to meet the needs, I just want to make sure that we keep the quality and the standards that are expected for the teachers,” she said.
The next Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting is currently scheduled for July 15 at 10 a.m.