Teacher vacancies rise in Kansas, leaving leaders looking for alternative methods to fill void

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The Kansas State Board of Education is working to resolve a critical teacher shortage within the state. Board members learned on Tuesday there are currently 443 teacher vacancies, up from 413 last year. Some believe barriers like teacher pay rates and lack of support from lawmakers has contributed to this shortage.

"The biggest change in Kansas has come due to the funding cuts, by our legislature. Our teachers haven’t had any raises, or minimal raises for at least the past five years," said Janet Waugh, Kansas State Board of Education member.

"Another issue is that fewer students are entering our schools of education, and that’s due to the fact that they know that there’s less money and they also know that they’re not really respected," Waugh explained.

Waugh says at the state level, they're considering alternative ways to get teachers into classrooms. Some solutions include allowing qualified candidates to work in classrooms while working towards becoming certified. Kansas City, Kansas is already practicing this new method, and administrators say it's working.

"We have individuals that we have recruited who have professional degrees in their area of expertise, such as engineers who have degrees in math, and we’ve recruited them to come work in our classrooms. We teach them how to be teachers, they know the content," said Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent for Kansas City Kansas Public Schools.

Through a partnership with Pittsburgh State University the district allows these candidates to teach while completing additional coursework.

"The individuals have to take the same coursework that they would take if they were a traditional education student getting their masters in education. They don’t have to have their masters, but they have to have the same coursework," said Lane.

Since introducing this program the district has been able to cut it's number of teacher vacancies by nearly half.

"Things are looking up, but we can’t get complacent because we still have 23 position to fill," Dr.Lane explained.

The Kansas State Board of Education will continue to discuss the teacher shortage in it's monthly meetings and work to develop practical solutions to this issue.