Distribution, demographics have some districts struggling to fill teacher positions
Kentucky School Advocate
By Matt McCarty
Nearly a quarter of all Kentucky public school teachers – almost 15,000 total – are currently eligible to retire, a staggering number that has educators noticing fewer applicants for job openings.
Kem Cothran, a retired principal who works for the Teacher Quality Institute at Murray State University, said about 600 teachers and principals were at a recent professional development on MSU’s campus.
“Every time I walked the hall I had a principal or superintendent say, ‘Oh, hey, if you hear of anybody I need a so-and-so,’” she said. “It’s just like every time you turn around, that’s what you’re hearing. I even heard it more this year than the year before.”
One district she heard from was Crittenden County. Vince Clark, Crittenden’s superintendent, said the challenge of finding new teachers “has become greater. It’s becoming greater every year.”
Jimmy Adams, the executive director of the Educational Professional Standards Board, says the number of teachers, many of them baby boomers, eligible to retire is a “huge number” and “that’s part of what we try to overcome.”
But Adams said he doesn’t think Kentucky has a teacher shortage problem – yet. Instead, he said the state has a teacher distribution problem, which is leading to fewer applicants in some geographical areas and in some subjects.
“The data show that we’ve got enough teachers being produced but they’re not being produced in a geographical region where they’re needed or they want to live,” Adams said.
“Just because the data doesn’t show a teacher shortage right now,” he added, “doesn’t mean we don’t have one coming.”
But whether or not it’s labeled a shortage, it’s a growing concern for many.
“Someone’s going to have to tell me how to get someone with high school math certification from Ashland, Ky., to move to Marion, Ky.,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of opportunities between here and there.
“Unless there’s some family here,” Clark added, “most folks aren’t going to come this way unless they really like to turkey hunt or deer hunt. … I think it’s time Kentucky takes a great big look at this.”