Kentucky House panel advances bill aimed at teacher shortage
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky House panel on Tuesday advanced a measure that was touted as a “good first step” to attract more educators into classrooms, but one supporter wished it featured “more robust” proposals to overcome a statewide teacher shortage.
The bill, which won bipartisan support, won’t resolve the problem, which developed over years and will take time to fix, said the Republican committee chairman, Rep. James Tipton.
“But I do believe that House Bill 319 is a good first step to take some positive actions that will remove some of the burden, remove some of the regulation, remove some of the red tape,” said Tipton, the bill’s sponsor. “And make it easier and more conducive for individuals to consider going into the teaching profession and to keep them in the teaching profession.”
The multi-layered measure was advanced by the House Education Committee.
The legislation confronts a nagging issue likely to spill over into this year’s campaign for governor. Some lawmakers have signaled that the legislature is likely to take bigger swings at the teacher shortage next year when the state’s next two-year budget is crafted.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass told the same House committee recently that teacher turnover has been growing, causing shortages in rural, suburban and urban districts. Some superintendents report feeling fortunate to draw one applicant for some positions, he said.
Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond voted for the bill in committee on Tuesday, but said she wished it was “more robust” to deal with teacher salaries and such incentives as scholarships or loan forgiveness for educators.
“I know in the legislature we say, ‘There’s always next year,’” Raymond said. “But our kids are only in first grade once, second grade once, third grade once. So I think we need to be very urgent in addressing this.”
The bill features several provisions aimed at getting more teachers into the classrooms.
It would allow people wanting to teach their subjects of expertise to obtain interim certificates. They would need a bachelor’s degree in that subject and have at least four years of work experience related to the subject. Mentor teachers would be assigned to help guide them.
The bill calls for creation of a marketing plan to recruit students into teaching and a statewide job posting system for teacher vacancies — if funding becomes available for both initiatives. Another provision would allow teachers’ aides to cover a class, at the discretion of school administrators.
“Just talking to teachers, I’m hearing a lot of discussion about burnout,” Tipton said. “Teachers are teaching their regular class load. There’s a shortage of teachers. There’s a shortage of substitutes. So a lot of times they were having to cover classes. They’re having to forego their planning period.”
Under the bill, the state would track trends in teacher departures. School districts would submit information from exit interviews to the state education department. Information would include why teachers left, how long they taught there and whether they took similar positions elsewhere.
“We’ve been talking about why we’re having this issue,” Tipton said. “Well, let’s get some data.”
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is pushing for higher salaries as a way to overcome the teacher shortage, proposing a 5% raise for teachers and other public school employees.
The budget passed last year by the Republican-dominated legislature funded full-day kindergarten and poured money into teacher pensions and infrastructure. Lawmakers increased the state’s main funding formula for K-12 schools, though the amount was far short of what Beshear proposed.
Their budget left it to school districts to decide whether to use additional state funding to raise school salaries. Most districts awarded pay raises, Republicans say. But Beshear, who is seeking reelection this year, says more needs to be done to raise teachers’ pay.