COLUMBIA – School is back in session for Columbia students, but some school districts across the country are struggling with a teacher shortage.
"Currently, there are not enough qualified teachers applying for teaching jobs to meet the demand in all locations and fields," said the Learning Policy Institute, a national education think tank, in a research brief in September.
Public schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia report teacher shortages in math for the 2017-18 school year, according to the US Department of Education. Forty-six states report shortages in special education, 43 in science, 41 in foreign languages, and 31 in teaching English as a second language.
MU Department Chair of Special Education Erika Lembke said educators need to help illuminate the importance of teaching positions like special education and provide opportunities to pursue a teaching career. One way MU is providing an opportunity is through a new masters program.
"We have a new online masters in special education. It doesn't lead to certification but we are getting students who applied to that, who maybe got certified in another area and now they like to go back. Their position is open in special education and would like to become a special education teacher," Lembke said.
CPS already took steps against this shortage last September when the Columbia Public School Board of Education agreed on a 57-cent property tax increase.
Board of Education Vice President Jonathan Sessions said part of the tax goes to increasing teacher’s salaries.
“About 50 percent of that is going straight to teachers’ salaries. Just under the other 50 percent is going into eliminating the deficit spending…And another portion of that, about four or five percent, is going to student programs that are designed to support student success,” Sessions said.
Community Relations Director for CPS Michelle Baumstark said keeping teachers in the field is as important as finding teachers.
"One of the things we focused on with the levy in 2016 was really recruiting and maintaining within our district high-quality employees," Baumstark said.
MU Dean of the College of Education Kathryn B. Chval said they have improved their enrollment in all shortage areas and taken steps to combat the shortages because they knew it was coming.
"We really have moved our college to a national recruitment model. Our current undergraduate class is from 27 states, very different from 10 years ago when all the students were from Missouri," Chval said.
Colleges like MU, Columbia, and Stephens are working with local school districts to promote seeking further degrees in education through grow your own programs like EdX
"We are doing that program with multiple districts. . . and that particular program is about students from under represented groups, and so we established a few years ago our Dorsey Scholars. They are funded by donors for a four year scholarship," Chval said.
Chval also said increasing teaching salaries and promoting a future in education can help this teacher shortage.