Monday, February 15, 2016

Drop in number of students pursuing education degrees could hurt rural areas' teacher recruitment

Rural areas that are already struggling to recruit teachers could be facing an even bleaker future if more college students don't pursue teaching careers, Tim Lockette reports for The Anniston Star. Peter Hlebowitsh, dean of education at the University of Alabama estimates that enrollment is down 10 to 15 percent in the past three years, numbers that he says are typical across the nation. Alabama is currently short 86 high school teachers and expects a shortage of 93 teachers next year. (Best Places map: Anniston, Ala.)

Money and security are the main reasons fewer students are going into education, Lockette writes. "The money isn’t good, compared to what college graduates could make in other fields. The relative security of teaching doesn’t hold as much appeal in an improving job market. And with years of budget tightness—with few raises and teachers paying more for benefits—the job doesn’t seem as secure as it used to." Another problem is working conditions, such as large classes or a lack of equipment.

Also, an Alabama law that recently went into effect eliminates the rule allowing teachers to retire after 25 years, Lockette writes. Bryant Ginn, who teaches at Ohatchee High School, told Lockette, “In the future, it’s going to be tough. When those young teachers realize they’re going to have to work 40 years for their retirement, they’re going to think twice.”

Thomas Spencer, an analyst for the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, a Birmingham think tank that studied teacher shortages last year, said "Keeping teachers beyond the first few years could be a key to solving the problem long-term," Lockette writes. Spencer told him, “Teachers in their early years go where they can get a job. The most ambitious of them tend to move on to some place with better conditions. There tends to be a churn in the underperforming systems.” (Read more)

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