It's back-to-school time in Kansas, and kids are starting to trickle back into school hallways. But when these students arrive at their classrooms, they may not find a teacher standing at the front.
Kansas is suffering from a well-documented teacher shortage. Last year, more than 2,320 educators in the state retired, compared to 1,260 in the 2011-2012 school year, according to data from the Kansas State Department of Educaton. At the same time, 654 teachers decided to leave the state last year, compared to just 399 in 2011-2012. Over 270 open teaching and non-teaching school staff positions were listed on the Kansas Education Employment Board's website as of Thursday afternoon.
Kansas has previously seen teacher shortages in areas like special education, as well as math and science. But this year, even typically popular jobs, such as teaching social studies classes or elementary school students, are proving hard to fill, KEEB coordinator Julie Wilson told The Huffington Post.
Those familiar with the situation say it is not surprising. A number of factors have recently converged to create a teacher shortage in the Sunflower State. Some of these factors are the result of actions taken by the state government and legislature. Over the past few years, Kansas has cut back on the job protections that give teachers due process rights, created a new school funding system that a district court panel ruled unconstitutional and cut taxes so severely that some districts lacked the revenue to stay open last school year.
“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 HuffPost last month. “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.”
For other states looking to wind up in the same situation, here's a surefire recipe for a teacher shortage:
The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe
1 cup of rhetoric against teachers
2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching (specifically, a proposed bill that would make it easier to jail teachers for teaching materials deemed offensive and a new program that lifts teacher licensure requirements in certain districts)
3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers
½ cup of finely diced repeated budget cuts amid a state revenue crisis
1 stalk of a new school funding system that is currently being challenged in state court
2 grinds of growing child poverty throughout the state
3 tablespoons of low teacher pay
1/3 cup of large numbers of teacher retirements