NEWPORT, Ky. — With school starting in just two weeks, Kentucky faces a statewide teacher shortage.
In Northern Kentucky, the shortage affects some school districts more than others.
“The closer we get to school, the more nervous I get,” said Newport High School Principal Heather Orman. She hopes that the few open positions in her district are filled soon, but she said pay could be a factor in the recent decline.
“It’s unfortunate that we can’t pay teachers as well as we do doctors or lawyers,” Orman said.
Dennis Maines, Newport Intermediate School principal, agrees that low pay could be driving people away from the profession.
“Not having candidates to apply for these positions and be those great role models is definitely going to have an impact on our future,” Maines said.
State education officials said the shortage is growing “critical,” according to the Associated Press . Department of Education spokeswoman Jessica Fletcher said open teaching positions climbed from 6,200 in 2014-15 to 8,800 in 2016-17. The department says there were 5,000 openings earlier this year.
There could be several other causes for the shortage, including pensions, politics and the pursuit of higher test scores. State officials added that the shortage is caused by teachers leaving the field and fewer college students pursuing an education degree.
But Beechwood Independent Schools in Fort Mitchell isn’t feeling the strain right now, and district leaders hope to keep it that way.
“We have started planting those seeds to come back and teach at Beechwood, especially in those hard to find areas, foreign language and those hard to find STEM areas,” said Beechwood Superintendent Dr. Mike Stacy.
As Boone County Schools in Florence host their new teacher orientation, officials say they are seeing staff numbers grow with the city. Deputy Superintendent Eric McArtor attributed the rising interest to the charm of Kentucky communities like Florence.
“I think we offer an attractive place to live and work,” McArtor said. “We work really hard at hiring people with great dispositions. People like to be here, and we just want to continue that.”
For now, districts like Newport are confident they will fill the positions by the time school starts, and Kentucky is launching a teacher recruitment program later this year called “Go Teach KY” to fight the shortage.
“It is a beautiful profession,” Newport Principal Orman said. “It just makes me sad that fewer people are going into teaching.”