Our teachers are trained to be experts in instruction. More than ever, now public school educators and support staff – from administrators to classroom teachers, from bus drivers to nutrition workers – are tasked with additional roles, like counselor, social worker, nurse and investigator, to ensure students’ needs are met, and they’re engaged and ready to learn.
But those additional duties, coupled with a severe staffing shortage across all educational roles, are taking a toll on our public schools. And Kentucky kids are ultimately the ones to pay the price.
Over the past few years, schools have been innovative in making sure classrooms are covered, whether it’s by filling a classroom vacancy with administrative staff, school personnel taking on non-assigned roles like bus monitors, or giving up planning sessions to take another class.
These additional duties decrease time for direct student involvement and planning, and increases burn out among staff.
All this is happening while teachers realize an effective pay cut:
A new analysis from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows that the average teacher pay has fallen for the seventh straight year. When adjusted for inflation, it dropped more than 5 percent in the past year alone. In fact, the latest inflation-adjusted analysis shows that teachers took a $3,152 pay cut this year on average.
Last year, schools got a much-needed lifeline: lawmakers invested additional dollars in our public schools, allowing nearly every district to provide raises to employees. Although those funds didn’t get teachers close to the 2008 earning power equivalency, we recognize and appreciate this important first step by legislators.
While continuing to increase pay would likely help with the staffing crisis, salary alone won’t lure the number of people into the profession that we need. Kentucky must think broadly to encourage and incentivize people to pursue teaching as a profession in the first place.
Kentucky lawmakers can take specific steps to increase the number of candidates in the teaching pipeline:
- Provide incentives to encourage more people to enter the education profession. including paid apprenticeships, scholarships, loan forgiveness programs and “Learn and Earn” paths to certification.
- Identify the education career pathway as a high demand work sector.
- Encourage young people to pursue education as a career through Educator Rising chapters integrated at every level of the Kentucky public school system.
- Improve student discipline and staff working conditions by reforming juvenile justice laws.
Across the Commonwealth, people are exiting the teaching profession or choosing to forgo a career in public education all together. These actions would help put Kentucky on a path to correcting its teacher and school staff shortage.