By Stan Bush
DENVER (CBS4)– A new study lays out a blueprint for solving Colorado’s teacher shortage, but voters may still have to decide if they’re willing to solve it.
The study, published last week, suggests a new marketing campaign to change the perception of teaching, retaining current teachers, attracting new talent, and paying them enough to afford to stay in the profession.
“There are fewer people applying for the hardest jobs than there were a few years ago,” says Frank Coyne, principal at The Denver Green School.
Coyne says many of his teachers have to commute across the Denver metro area to get to the school because there is no affordable housing nearby.
“It’s tough. We do our best to attract and retain high quality teachers,” says Coyne.
The problem is dynamic and spreads across the state. There are fiscal problems for teachers in booming metro areas. Meanwhile, rural Colorado faces a challenge of its own, attracting talent to go there.
“It would be great if this is a shared responsibility conversation and people come together and say ‘let’s not just admire this problem, let’s solve this problem,’” says Kim Hunter Reed, executive director for the Colorado Department of Higher Education. “Don’t we believe that our students are worthy of the best and the brightest we can provide?”
According to the report, commissioned by the state legislature earlier this year, more than 5,000 teaching positions are vacated every year. It also says 16 percent of teachers who quit are doing so within the first five years of their career.
“This is the first generation of teachers telling their own children that they can’t go into teaching,” says Sue Sava, chief policy office at the Public Education & Business Coalition. “People need to understand teachers are the profession upon which all professions are built and the economic development of the state depends on the teachers.”
Ultimately, according to educators, the problem may come down to whether or not voters are willing to pay teachers enough to make a living out of the profession.
“How do we show pride in Colorado? We show pride by investing in Colorado and investing in our students. That’s what it about to me,” says Hunter Reed.