DENVER – Education leaders met in Denver last week Tuesday to highlight a growing crisis around teacher shortages, especially in rural Colorado.
In 2014, only 1,000 teachers graduated from Colorado colleges with credentials in elementary education, according to the TeachStrong campaign, which is working nationally to recruit teachers. By next school year, Colorado will need 4,500 new teachers.
Nearly 5,500 teachers in Colorado will retire this year, and only about 2,000 students will graduate with teaching degrees from universities in the state. Colorado has seen five consecutive years of decline in teacher enrollment.
“We do see there’s a gap in those numbers,” said Katy Anthes, interim Colorado commissioner of education.
This year, lawmakers made some progress addressing the problem. They sent the governor a bill that would provide $500,000 for incentives to drive teachers to rural Colorado.
The legislation would:
Create education training programs through coordinators at colleges in rural parts of the state.Provide stipends to offset tuition costs for student teachers who agree to teach in rural schools.Establish programs in rural areas to identify high school students interested in teaching.Provide money to teachers in rural districts who pursue national certifications.“As we met with our rural folks, we heard over and over, if they come, they’ll learn to love us, and they’ll want to be a resident in our communities,” said Sen. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, who co-sponsored the legislation.
But officials and education leaders agreed Tuesday that much more needs to be done.
Part of the TeachStrong campaign is elevating the prestige of teaching, noting that millennials are less attracted to the profession than other generations.
A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday revealed that 58 percent of Coloradans believe the shortage of student teachers is a major problem, yet fewer people are driven to the profession.
“We have to collaborate to continue to shine a light on this issue, encourage more young people to enter this noble profession and continue to elevate the profession,” Anthes said.
TeachStrong underscores a collaborative approach on several principles, from recruiting more teachers to creating career pathways that give teachers opportunities to lead and grow.
“Recruitment is a special challenge right now. ...” said Lisette Partelow, with TeachStrong. “Colorado ... can really be a model for other states.”