Teacher Shortage Hits Texas - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6-18-02

Teacher Shortage Hits Texas

   Texas has some 40,000 teaching positions still open, and there's a concern that school children will ultimately suffer if something isn't fixed soon.

   The Texas House is working on the problem in Austin, but it's not a quick fix.  At the root of their problem is unattractive teaching salaries and intense competition.

   Even retired teachers are becoming a hot commodity among school districts and private schools. Educators like retired librarian Mary Kay Norris are working outside the public school arena while also collecting their pensions.

   Norris didn't expect to work again when she retired in December, but a private school came knocking on her door.

   "It was just a nice option for me to be able to go someplace else. But, I think it probably does add to the teacher shortage for public shcools."

    And as teachers retire, school administrators are stuck with more positions and less qualified applicants to fill them. Not to mention, competition from larger school districts.

   "One particular school district has actually come in, advertising in the newspaper, that they will pay a signing bonus for teachers to come to their school district," said TISD superintendant Donald Gentry.

   So, the question remains how do you refill classrooms with qualified teachers?

   "In general, when you have a shortage of teachers, you have to make do with somebody not as qualified," said Bonner Elementary principal Dr.Angela Nelson. "But, then the students do suffer."

   Nelson and her husband Orr principal Bruce Nelson even compete for the same job applicants. Last year, they tossed a coin over a job applicant.

   "We flipped a coin, and she won," said Bruce Nelson. "I tried to do two out of three, but she wouldn't do that."

   Tyler administrators say they have the toughest time finding bilingual instructors and special education teachers. This year, 17 of the districts 40-50 openings will be filled with teachers from Spain.

   Tyler ISD pays $4,000 above the state minimum for new teachers, but teachers in the future may find better job offers just inside Texas.

Dallas ISD pays their new instructors $34,000...that's $3,000 more than Tyler.

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