Missouri Teaching Data Paints Two Different Pictures

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COLUMBIA - Julie Ronzio is a third-grade education fellow at Mary Paxton Keeley Elemantary in Columbia, who said she chose to study education in college because of the role she would play in the lives of her students.

"I've always wanted to make a difference in the future generation and in the lives of my students. I want to be that positive role model that my former teachers have been for me in my life," Ronzio said.

But new data has been released that suggests her search for a job may be a bit harder than if she was looking for a job last year.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center has released projections saying that there will be about 13 percent fewer teaching jobs available by the end of 2012 compared to two years ago.

MU College of Education Dean Daniel Clay said he attributes the short-term decline to a failing state budget.

"There have been significant cuts made to the K-12 schools, and they weren't hiring teachers at the same rate. Also, teachers would be retiring and they wouldn't be replacing them because of budget cuts," Clay said.

So how is this information affecting those who are currently studying or looking for a job in the education field?

According to MU senior Michael Langenberg, he sees this data as a reason to stray away from pursuing education.

"You hear the economy itself is bad. So then, if you throw in the fact that the specific field is especially bad that you want to go into, then you think, why would I invest all this time and money and effort into something that I don't even know if I am even going to be able to get into that field and do what I want to do?

 He also said he would have many questions about his decision to study education after hearing about such negative data.

"I'm paying all this money to join a field that's failing? How is that going to reflect on me as a person? You know, as a person you don't want to join something where you're like, "Wow, you're going into this field and that's great and all, but it sucks."

 But Ronzio said hearing about a lack of jobs only makes her want to fight harder to get a job as a teacher.

"Columbia just keeps growing and growing, and we are going to have to build new elementary schools. That means there is a whole school that is going to need teachers. So, if it is in fact declining, that just makes me want to work harder to be the best teacher I can be for my students and hopefully get a job where I continue in this field," Ronzio said.

However, MERIC has also released longer term data which suggests that educational jobs will be on the rise for the next 6 years.

Even Clay said they have had to cap some of their programs within the college because of climbing demand.

"We have had to cap our programs due to the higher demand, and it has become very competitive to be in the College of Education," Clay said.

MERIC was not available for an interview about the conflict in data, but a representative from the Missouri Department of Economic Development told KOMU that the data often comes from research done by various state agencies.

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