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Colorado teacher shortage study gets underway

Higher education director says resolution will not come quickly

DENVER – The state’s Department of Higher Education is beginning its work to study teacher shortages after State Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, sponsored a bill requiring it.

McLachlan, with the support of state Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, sponsored House Bill 1003, which requires the study to be completed by Dec. 1.

Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Department of Higher Education, said the study will have a three-tier approach.

First will be an inventory of what is happening across the country and which states are successfully promoting the teaching profession and attracting educators.

Next, the departments will hold a series of town hall meetings across the state so locals can explain unique circumstances they face.

There will be 10 town halls starting in June and continuing through August. There also will be a series of webinars and online surveys. The survey will include a range of topics, including teacher salaries, the difficulty of attaining certification and cost of higher education.

The first town hall will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. June 14 at Ridgway Elementary School in Ridgway. The second will be from 3 to 4:30 p.m. June 23 in Parachute at the Grand Valley High School. More dates and locations will be announced later.

The final stage of the study will be the creation of recommendations that will be submitted to the Legislature, Reed said.

“We will move hopefully from just some anecdotal conversation to some deep analysis around what is happening around some particular parts of the state and what we see across the country as potential solutions,” she said.

But Reed said the study is not the final action, because legislative solutions take time to become effective.

“It will not be a one-year or a one-and-done solution with one study. This is going to be a continuous piece,” she said.

The state faces a teacher shortage because of a 24 percent drop in individuals completing teacher education programs across Colorado, which is compounded by difficulties retaining teachers in K-12 and retirement of veteran teachers.

The effects of teacher shortages vary from district to district based upon geographic location and demographics.

Julie Popp, spokeswoman for Durango School District 9-R, said the Durango school district doesn’t struggle as much with the shortage because Durango is an attractive place for teachers to live and work.

In the Denver Metro area, diversity is a main challenge for attracting teachers.

“I met with the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, he said ‘We don’t have a teacher shortage problem, we have a teacher of color shortage problem,” Reed said.


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