Quality Educators: It All Comes Down To Funding

More chatter on the teacher shortage happens in the news every day. But, the funny thing is, the teachers have already told us what the problems are, ad nauseum. When will “those in charge” start listening and when will we fully start supporting our educators?

CEA STATEMENT ON TEACHER SHORTAGE STATEMENT ON TEACHER SHORTAGE FROM KERRIE DALLMAN, PRESIDENT OF COLORADO EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

DENVER ¬– In response to the recent report by the Colorado Department of Education on teacher shortage, Kerrie Dallman, President of the Colorado Education Association, made the following statement:

The 36,000 members of the Colorado Education Association are glad that an in-depth look at the looming educator shortage is finally being undertaken and that the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Higher Education has acknowledged the growing teacher shortage crisis and the need to retain existing educators. The report notes that a teacher shortage has been expected for over 20 years.

Losing high quality teachers is bad for all of Colorado. It hurts our competitiveness and quality of life, but this turnover hurts students the most. When students do not have professional, experienced educators in their classrooms and schools, ample research shows that student outcomes diminish. This is true not only of assessment scores, grades, and graduation, but also in attendance and behavior.

We are glad to see CDE and CDHE focus on improving the teacher pipeline with an emphasis on higher compensation and incentives to entice students to pursue education as a major. We also appreciate the proposal to increase teacher salaries, but we still want to see concrete proposals for providing the additional revenue. 

Through listening tours and surveys, the CDE determined what CEA has been saying for some time: teachers leave because of low compensation, under preparation, little-to-no support and poor teaching conditions. When teachers leave, everyone pays. The report notes that the annual cost of attrition is $21 to $61 million. As the report notes, “The disparity in salary between Colorado urban/suburban and rural school districts greatly impacts hiring and retention for rural school districts that offer lower salaries as 95% of Colorado rural school districts salaries are below the cost of living.” Those statistics come from a study of only rural districts, and the skyrocketing costs of rent and housing are preventing educators in urban areas from finding affordable housing in or near the districts they work in. Consequently, fewer graduates are pursuing jobs in education, with a 22.7 percent decline in Colorado.

We appreciate that the proposal calls for raising educator salaries, loan forgiveness for teaching in rural areas and housing assistance. However, what is largely missing from the report is the importance of the educator voice. Teacher job satisfaction, and by extension, retention is better in districts and schools that place a high value on teacher voice and leadership. If teachers don’t feel valued, they will not stick around. It is concerning that there are not more concrete details to ensure the voices of the professional educators who are working directly with our students are part of the decision making processes within the schools-districts-state. As Superintendent Rico Munn pointed out at the PEBC forum, teaching is not a job anyone can do. We need to ensure that professionals are involved in meaningful, collaborative, shared decision making at all levels so our students are getting the best education possible.

Lowering standards is not how to address the shortage of qualified educators. Where licensure is concerned, we cannot afford to lower the bar. We must continue to press for rigorous performance assessments that candidates must pass to teach. We need teachers well versed in content and classroom management.

We are excited to work with all stakeholders to continue to address our educator shortage and are glad that CDE, CDHE, and the legislature see this as a critical issue. The call for increased salaries, a more robust educator preparation pipeline, and more focus on mentoring/induction are all sound strategies. However, a focus on working and learning conditions must be stronger to ensure that professional educators are supported and valued.

First, let’s end the attacks on teachers and their “big, scary union” that some keep trying to throw into the mix on social media. These keyboard cowboys showed up a few years ago  on the education scene without a horse in the race. Education conversations used to be moms, dads, and educators discussing students and working together to improve schools. Then, outside interests and party politics jumped into the scene and intervened in school board elections, which are nonpartisan for a reason.

Knowing that we were facing a shortage problem 20 years ago, Colorado hasn’t kept up with it’s promise to address compensation due to TABOR and the BS Factor (previously called the Negative Factor, but the legislators unintentionally named it that last year and we agree, it is BS.) We made a promise with Amendment 23, but we reneged on the will of the voters in a budget panic.

Read this story from KUNC –

http://www.kunc.org/post/colorado-teacher-shortage-presents-opportunities-some-future-educators

A potentially innovative solution to the teacher shortage but take a look at the facts presented within.

  • “Recent statistic from the Colorado Departments of Education and Higher Education: Nearly 17 percent of teachers leave the profession after five years.”
  • “Democratic State Rep. Barbara McLachlan — and a former English teacher — said low pay is only part of the state’s teacher retention problem. The issue is more complicated than that.”
  • “Everybody wants teachers to be the end all be all. We’re supposed to be parents and judicial activists,” she said. “We’re supposed to kind of do everything at the school. It’s not just teaching anymore.'”
  • “Every year about 3,000 educator positions remain unfilled in the state. Last year McLachlan drafted a bill to study why teachers are leaving the profession — and what can be done to narrow Colorado’s growing shortage.”
  • “‘All this bill said was do that survey again and now let’s come up with an action plan about how we can get some bills out here to actually solve this problem,” McLachlan said.”
  • “’It’s the principal that makes the biggest difference. A good principal you don’t have teachers that are talking about how miserable they are,” said McLachlan. “They stay because, as most teachers do, you’re not doing it for the pay, you’re doing it because you love it.’”

Even with the best principal, eventually new teachers may want a family, a home of their own, to be able to pay their bills, and to buy themselves some nice things. They may not decide to marry someone who can support them so they can continue to teach as a service, nor should they have to do so.

Perhaps our teachers would choose to advance by taking other positions within the district, including becoming a principal. That would help increase their salaries but fewer positions are available and…consider this article we shared with quotes from our administrators – http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/quotesfromouradministrators/

“The principal role today includes being a/an

  • Inspirer
  • Relationship builder
  • Culture and climate builder
  • Professional developer
  • Presenter
  • Instructional leader
  • Communicator
  • Interpreter
  • A sense maker
  • Decision maker
  • Data collector
  • Goal setter
  • Strategic planner & implementer
  • Process monitor
  • Budget developer & analyst
  • Resource allocator
  • Buyer
  • Recruiter
  • Evaluator
  • Encourager
  • Disciplinarian
  • Mental health provider – without the MSW that goes with it
  • Manager
  • “Incentivizer”
  • Fundraiser
  • Community partner
  • Marketer
  • Security guard
  • Assessment coordinator
  • 504 coordinator”

“Responsibilities continue to increase each year. One of the most challenging is having to chose. We are often asked and required to chose:

Do you want

  • A fulltime mental health provider?
  • A full time instructional coach – or an instructional coach at all?“

Do you need

  • An assistant principal?
  • Can you have an assistant principal?
  • How about a digital librarian?
  • A reading interventionist?
  • A full time art, music, and PE team?
  • Or enough paraprofessionals to cover the lunch recess and support that is required by the students?

“We simply cannot do more with less and less. We know it comes down to funding.”

So, considering very low pay compared to any other degreed profession, in addition to poor treatment and voters continually rejecting additional funding, would you stay in this job? Would you choose this profession for YOUR child?

Finally, thank our educators. Teachers, classified staff, principals, administrative staff, etc. All of them. They’re doing a service for our children and deserve all the support we can give them.

From all of us at SJK – THANK YOU to  our wonderful Jeffco staff members! Your work is appreciated and you have our support because you Support Jeffco Kids!