Fixing the teacher shortage

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Fixing the teacher shortage

The following remarks were made by WVEA President Dale Lee to the State Board of Education on Wednesday, October 11 regarding the shortage of education employees –

President Campbell, Superintendent Paine, members of the Board-

I am WVEA President Dale Lee and I would like to make some comments regarding Policy 5202 and the shortage of teachers and other education employees that our state currently faces.

I am upset that we cannot get past looking at Band Aid fixes to the vacancy problem that exist in our school systems.

You placed Policy 5202 on comment and made tweaks to the licensure requirements making it easier for non-education majors to get into the classroom.

Your attempts to entice people into our classrooms always ends up pitting non-education majors against those who have chosen to go the traditional route into the classroom and major in education.

Let me give you an example - This policy proposes waiving certain Praxis requirements for non-education majors yet you require the traditional education student to take those exams.

It seems as if we are always interested in getting the non-education major into the classroom and we are doing little to help those who are majoring in education in our colleges and universities.

West Virginia already has 7 paths available for alternative certification and the vacancy problem continues to exist. Clearly it isn’t the answer to solve the problem.

Instead of trying to entice people who have chosen other careers into education what is this board doing to encourage students to choose teaching as their preferred career?

What type of incentives, waivers of tests or reductions in coursework are you proposing for them?

If there were more incentives/enticements to major in the profession then more students might choose to major in education.

Clearly a student who has studied for four or more years and taken the prescribed curriculum is better prepared to enter the classroom on day 1 and instruct students.

So let’s do something to make teaching more attractive.

To get students to enter the profession we need to do some bold things. 

Think outside the box, maybe waive tuition for education majors, offer dual credits for high school future teacher programs or reduce the amount of coursework and make it a 3 year program, offer free online courses during the summer so they can graduate early or forgive loans if they teach in the state.

We need to make teaching a valued profession and encourage students to enter the profession as undergraduates.

Which leads to the biggest issues creating our classroom vacancies – pay/benefits and respect.

These are tough issues and they cannot be addressed in a policy. This board needs to be bold and it needs to make a very clear statement on the need to increase teacher salaries and to preserve the benefits educators currently have.

Without a competitive salary and benefit structure in place even if you get folks into the profession they will not stay.

West Virginia made great strides in the 1990s in regard to both salary and benefits but educators have seen both salaries and benefits erode since that time.

We cannot continue to skimp on the basis of salary and benefits and then wonder why no one wants to teach in our classrooms.

In addition to salary and benefits, educators deserve to be treated with respect by parents, students and policymakers.

All one has to do is look at some of the proposals and comments made during the past few years and it becomes clear that education and educators are not particularly valued in our state.

Until this state clearly makes a commitment to public education and to education employees you can tinker with policies all you want but there will still be a shortage of education employees and our students will struggle academically.

I ask you to do more than tinker with policies and help us lead the effort to make public schools a priority in this state.

And that includes having a highly qualified, well paid and respected work force.