A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Teacher shortage could force school consolidations; coalition releases recommendations to ease problem

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter

The severe shortage of public school teachers in Kentucky could force schools to consolidate, Lawrence County Superintendent Robbie Fletcher warned Monday.

Fletcher offered the worst-case scenario of teacher shortage at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda with Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman.

The news conference was to announce recommendations from a coalition formed last fall by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) made up of educators, business people and government officials to address the shortage.

Gov. Andy Beshear sits by Frankfort students Joseph Carter and Makiya McNear at a news conference on Kentucky’s teacher shortage. (Photo by Jack Brammer)

The problem is severe.

Kentucky has about 11,000 teacher vacancies to fill across the state.  The state has about 46,000 teacher positions.

Keith Davis, former superintendent of Bullitt County and now KASA’s coalition coordinator, said the shortage is widespread across the state and in all areas of education.

Kentucky this year has dropped from 42nd to 44th in the nation in starting pay for teachers.

“I’m ashamed of that, said Beshear, who argues better pay needs to be offered to tackle the shortage.

Superintendent Fletcher said the median annual salary for a Kentuckian with a bachelor’s degree is $69,381. It is $49,000 for a teacher.
With a Master’s degree, said Fletcher, the median salary for a Kentucky teacher is $53,500, compared to $81,867 for other professions.

Fletcher noted that he had two teachers quit last semester, saying they no longer could supply needs for their children on their salaries.

He said those two positions remain open because he has not received any certified applications to fill the vacancies.

Many involved in addressing teacher shortage say more money is needed.

Beshear and Coleman recommend the state legislature approve a 5 percent pay increase on top of what districts have provided and set up universal pre-kindergarten for every student.

He said the state has a record $2.5 billion in its rainy day fund to pay for the raises.

But the Republican-led legislature does not seem willing to consider teacher pay raises in this year’s General Assembly. Legislative leaders have said they do not want to open up the state budget in this 30-day or short session of the budget. Lawmakers write two-year state budgets in the long or 60-day sessions in even-numbered years.

Beshear noted that Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is proposing a pay raise for Indiana teachers.

“When you see how aggressively they are working to do it, it shows we are in direct competition with one of our neighbors.”

House Education Chairman James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, said at the Rotunda news conference that Kentucky has “a workforce situation in general,” noting various shortages.

He said his committee on Feb. 7 will hold a meeting to discuss teacher shortage and he may present legislation dealing with it.

He acknowledged that “resources” are a part of improving the shortage problem but did not indicate when that might be.

Rhonda Caldwell, KASA’s chief executive officer, said teacher pay probably will not be addressed in this year’s legislative session since it is “a non-budget year.”

It is also a political year in which Kentuckians will decide who will be their governor for the next four years.  Teachers generally have backed Beshear.

Eddie Campbell, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said after Monday’s news conference that the legislature should act this year with better pay for teachers.

“There is a real concern out there now on what might happen if this problem is not addressed,” he said. “We have a budget surplus. Let’s get it done now.

Caldwell said KASA’s Coalition to Sustain the Education Profession will ask this year’s legislature to consider nine recommendations:

• Direct the state Office of Education Accountability to study a comprehensive teacher wage and benefit analysis.

• Make teacher certification easier.

• Direct the state Department of Education to create a teacher recruitment web portal.

• Encourage the Education Professional Standards board to address certifications such as teacher testing and admission to teacher education programs.

• Approve legislation to clarify acceptable personal and profession educator behaviors.

• Provide funding for a marketing campaign to highlight the importance of education and the education profession.

• Direct and provide funding for development of a model teacher recruitment and induction program and mandate the establishment of a Tenure Review Committee for teachers inducted into the education profession under that program.

• Direct and provide funding to expand the GoTeachKY and GoTeachKY Ambassador program in every Kentucky school district. GoTeachKy is a state Department of Education initiative to recruit teachers.

• Create and provide funding for the creation of an annual renewable undergraduate teacher education scholarships for each Kentucky school district and for the creation of a $500 stipend for teacher education students who are engaged in student teaching.

Two public school students – Makiya McNear, a senior at Frankfort High School and Joseph Carter, an eighth-grader at Second Street School in Frankfort – spoke at the news conference, calling for improved benefits for teachers.

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One Comment

  1. Aythel Brown says:

    I’m a former teacher who left my position in October of 2021. I have a daughter with terminal cancer and I needed to be home with her. Leaving my job has put me in poverty. My husband’s social security is my only income. Legislation NEEDS to be passed in the state of Kentucky that a retired teacher can receive both teacher retirement and a spouse’s retirement! Kentucky is one of 13 states that doesn’t allow this. My husband worked for 30 years for his retirement but I have to choose between his retirement or mine! This is sooooo unfair! This NEEDS TO CHANGE NOW. Please Governor Beshear change this law NOW!
    I’m from Sandy Hook and am a supporter and friend of Rocky Adkins.

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