The commonwealth is facing a shortage of teachers, and area school districts say that finding candidates for positions has become difficult in recent years.
The Kentucky Department of Education announced last month that it was starting a recruitment campaign for education jobs in response to a growing teacher shortage. The Associated Press reported that earlier this year, Kentucky schools had 5,000 open teaching positions. Openings increased by 2,600 from the 2014-15 school year to 2016-17 school year.
Franklin County Schools Superintendent Mark Kopp said his district had four positions open as of Monday, but the district is confident it will fill them before school starts. The district has about 450 certified positions, employees with teaching degrees.
The teacher shortage facing the state will only get worse as elected officials divert funding programs for teachers and public schools and if Gov. Matt Bevin continues to "attack" teachers, Kopp said.
Bevin has made several controversial comments about teachers. In March, he posted a video on Twitter regarding teacher protests with the caption “SICK OF SICKOUTS?”
“The ability for kids whose livelihoods as they head into postsecondary worlds are dependent on what’s happening now being disrupted because of the handful of people who are putting their own interests ahead of the kids’,” Bevin said in the video. “It’s just not acceptable. It really isn’t.”
At the time, AP reported teachers were protesting two pieces of legislation, one of which would give the Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent authority to hire principals instead of the school-based decision-making councils and another bill that would allow people to donate to scholarships for children with special needs and from low- to middle-income homes in order to attend private schools. The AP said that the latter bill would have cost the state over $209 million.
Schools must find ways to attract applicants to the “noble profession” of teaching, which is why many Kentucky educators are fighting to keep their pensions, Kopp said. One of the primary benefits of going into education as a career was the promise of a pension upon retirement.
“Teachers don’t go into teaching to make money. They go into it because they love kids and want to watch them grow,” Kopp said.
Frankfort Independent Schools Superintendent Houston Barber said that while in the past several years, FIS has created “pipeline opportunities” for college students who are studying education at surrounding universities, the quality and quantity of applicants have declined.
FIS has one early childhood education teacher position that it is currently interviewing applicants for. The school district has about 85 to 100 certified positions and about 80 of those are teachers. Barber said the toughest subject areas to find candidates are science and math, echoing similar comments by Kopp.
“It’s a struggle across the board to find candidates,” Barber said.