Traditionally schools have enough applicants and filled openings to wait until Spring to hire for the next school year but not for this year. “It’s hiring season all year long,” said Peter Hilts, chief education officer in Falcon School District 49.
According to Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) Kim Hunter Reed, the state has an urgent need for teachers and the shortage is only getting worse with time. Currently
School board and administration members across the nation are left reeling due to the hiring crisis which has now made its way into the Centennial state. About 3,000 to 3,500 openings need to be filled for the coming school year across Colorado’s 178 public school districts, according to the CDHE.
“It’s a challenge across the country – we do not have enough interest in teacher preparation programs,” she said during a recent presentation. “We have a decline in enrollment and a decline in retention of teachers teaching in our schools.”
School officials point to many factors as causing the shortage, and pay is one of the top factors. Some rural school districts where teachers are most needed can’t pay the type of salary that teachers can get in other states and other districts. “We’re definitely seeing a lack of applicants,” said Tim Kistler, superintendent of Peyton School District 23-JT, an eastern plains district with 575 students. “In the last two years, it’s been a dramatic decrease.”
The shortage is hitting both rural and city schools alike. The booming school district of Denver which has close to 100,000 students has almost 1000 job openings. STEM teachers, special education teachers, and teachers with special skills like foreign language fluency are the most needed
In May 2017 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed new legislation requiring CDHE and the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) to jointly develop a plan to address the hiring crisis. The organizations will also hold town hall meetings across the state for help from the communities. The action initiative will also have constituents filling simple online surveys. “We’ll be asking communities what are the challenges and potential solutions people would like to see,” Reed said.
Both CDHE and CDE hope that a combination of innovative solutions and reaching out to communities as the top ways to help solve the crisis and get Colorado outfitted with the proper professionals to boost our students’ success.