Kansas school superintendents says the state is poised for the perfect storm to create a teacher shortage. Tax cuts that put education funding in jeopardy and retirement changes have teachers exploring their options.
"What other things do we capitalize besides cities and states?"
Becky Cleland teaches language arts to sixth graders in Lamar, Missouri. She left Kansas after teaching twenty-two years in Girard.
"i loved my job in Girard i loved teaching there it was the governor it was the states legislatures and of what they're doing to school districts."
Cleland says she was frustrated by growing class sizes and shrinking budgets. "You're wondering am I next. When you see those new hires who do an awesome job and those superintendents have to tell them they're gone."
Kansas Senator Jake La Turner argues Kansas gives fifty cents of every tax dollar to education and can still compete in supports for teachers.
"Look at average salaries for example when you look on the Missouri side at Nevada, Carl Junction and Joplin and compare it to Fort Scott, Pittsburg and Galena. All three Kansas schools have a higher average salary than the best of those three."
Cleland says she was also frustrated with the handling of common core in Kansas, something she isn't seeing in Missouri.
"I don't feel as brow beat about common core as I did when I was in Kansas. They're demanding us to do more meet these common core goals, do this, do that and if you are not successful possibly, your salary is tied to that."
Northeast high school principal, "We're changing testing systems in Kansas and its been a constant chore over the last several years to decide which testing system are we gonna use? Is it gonna work? Is it gonna break down?"
Girard's superintendent doesn't feel there's a mass exodus of teachers going from Kansas to Missouri but he says the conditions are making it harder to hire.
Superintendent Blaise Bauer says, "There's not the applicant pool to fill those jobs and now with the retirement system that's kind of gone away."
Kansas used to allow a teacher to retire then work in another district. Lawmakers considered that double dipping and changed retirement rules.
Bauer says, "So these teachers are still gonna work, but they're going to go to Missouri to work or to Oklahoma to work and because they really can't afford to stay in Kansas anymore."
Tony White who works with Uniserve, the southeast Kansas arm of the Kansas National Education Association says, "If that cant be fixed, I think that will actually increase the out state migration."
While Galena struggled to fill a science position, a fall vacancy report shows there were three hundred seventeen teaching vacancies in the state as of September 1st, 2015 and those hard to fill positions include not only math and science, but the average elementary classroom teacher."
Parsons superintendent Dr. Shelly Martin says, "That's just a shock to me. If you had asked me five years ago if we would ever have a shortage of elementary teachers in Kansas, I would have told you no! And yet that's where we find ourselves."
Martin even had trouble filling a PE position in Parsons.
I know my colleague in Kansas City still today has forty-five vacancies she cant fill."
There, Missouri schools use billboards to lure unhappy teachers across the border.
Cleland says, "In teaching if there's no support, if your government isn't behind you, if your governor, if your legislature isn't behind you with either pay or support, what future do you have."
More than six hundred fifty teachers last year decided to take chances on a future outside of Kansas.
Not all those leaving may be headed to Missouri but they're not happy in the sunflower state.
And superintendents worry about the vacancies getting worse. The number of teachers graduating from the universities is on the decline in Kansas. Pittsburg State University education officials used to average 190 to 225 education graduates. In the last five years the average has dropped to around 160.
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2018 KFJX. All Rights Reserved.
KFJX - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas
FCC Public File
Send tips, ideas and press releases to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send newsroom questions or comments: to email@example.com
Phone: (417) 782-1414 or (620) 230-0565
Web comments or questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Newsroom Fax: (417) 624-3158