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Kansas education board struggles with teacher shortage

Posted September 13

— A Kansas State Board of Education panel has recommended a new licensing system to reduce the shortage of teachers in the state.

State education department officials said Tuesday that there are 90 elementary school teacher openings in Kansas and more than 80 vacancies for special education teachers, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported

"The challenge is now, these students are there (in school)," said Janet Waugh, a longtime board member. "What are we doing because we still have to serve them? They don't stay home because we don't have a teacher."

A teacher vacancy committee has recommended an elementary licensing process that would require a district to identify people with "great potential" to be a teacher. The person must have a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and be enrolled in an approved elementary education preparation program. The process to become a licensed elementary school teacher would take two years.

The process would also require intensive mentoring and support, which Waugh said is crucial to retaining teachers. She also said substitute teachers should also be identified as candidates for the licensing requirements.

The committee has also recommended a similar set of alternative licensing requirements to help fill teaching spots in special education.

"We had a serious discussion about what options are out there," said Deborah Ayers-Geist, director of special services for Turner Unified School District. "We looked at all options. We think that teachers in special education should get higher pay and higher pay for our paraprofessionals. I think that's how we'll get additional people who want to take that risk."

Waugh said she thinks the board hasn't acted on those recommendations because it didn't have the latest teacher vacancy data.

"We can't just sit on our hands and do nothing," she said. "We must do something. We've got to come up with something that will best serve our students."

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