Education funding increase could help state’s teacher shortage

Local News

The state is looking to solve a teacher shortage. Advocates for teachers at the state Board of Education meeting say schools haven’t been properly funded for much of the past decade, and that has taken a toll on teachers.

A quick search on the state Department of Education website finds more than one thousand open teaching jobs in the state.

“We’re in a position where not only do we have many fewer people that have been in the pipeline over the last few years, but there’s also a pull away either to other states or other professions and that’s what districts are really struggling with,” said Kansas Association of School Boards associate executive director for advocacy Mark Tallman.

The state school board has formed a committee to find what caused the shortage and how to get the state back on track.

“They increased their classroom sizes due to the budget cuts, they’ve cut programs, they’ve put more and more on the teachers and some of them said I’m through,” said board member Janet Waugh.

Waugh said it wasn’t always like this. She said her daughter teaches in the state now but teaching jobs used to be harder to find.

“She wanted a job in the greater Kansas City area, she was willing to go even 50 miles to be close to home. She could not find a job, so she finally accepted a job in Houston, and she taught in Houston for three years and was, fortunately, able to come here and get a job, and she’s been working in Kansas ever since,” Waugh said.

With a six and a half percent increase in education funding for the fiscal year 2020, people are optimistic schools can start filling more positions.

“With this good raise this year, we’re hopeful that we can increase the salaries and by increasing the salaries, we hope that we start getting folks understanding you can make a living wage, you can get into teaching,” said board chair Kathy Busch.

And that’s what Tallman is hoping for too.

“I think we’re pretty confident that with the additional funding provided this coming year and phased in, I think providing those salary increases is going to be a part of it,” said Tallman.

In addition to more money this year, lawmakers have added more money to education each of the next three years.

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