States Continue to Fight Teacher Shortages

By: - August 25, 2016 12:00 am

With kids heading back to school, some teaching positions across the country still haven’t been filled. In Oklahoma, one of the hardest-hit states, more than 500 teaching positions are sitting open even though budget cuts forced schools to cut 1,500 teaching positions in the past year, according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

States are trying to find a long-term solution to the shortages they’re facing. Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Mary Fallin wants the Legislature to raise teacher salaries in order to attract and retain more teachers, for instance. Oklahomans will vote on a ballot initiative in November that would raise the state sales tax to increase teacher pay.

Indiana has created a new college scholarship for top students who commit to teaching in the state after graduation. 

In the short term, some states have relaxed their licensing requirements in order to fill positions. Earlier this summer, Utah’s State Board of Education voted to allow schools to hire people who had a bachelor’s degree and could demonstrate subject area mastery, even if they lacked a teaching license or prior teaching experience (schools that hire such teachers have to provide them with a mentor).

Wisconsin’s education agency this week announced that it will reduce licensing renewal requirements for retired teachers and teachers close to retirement, and allow some teachers to renew emergency licenses even if they don’t pass required tests. The state will also allow short-term substitutes to stay in the same teaching assignment for up to 45 days and increase opportunities for teachers to get licensed in additional subjects. 

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Sophie Quinton

Sophie Quinton writes about fiscal and economic policy for Stateline. Previously, she wrote for National Journal.