Aug 17, 2022 - News

Colorado districts are short teachers and bus drivers ahead of school year

Illustration of a golden apple on a stack of books.
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Just days before the new school year starts, Denver Public Schools and districts across Colorado are scrambling to fill positions.

By the numbers: Denver schools need 150 teachers, 275 paraprofessionals and more than 45 bus drivers, our education reporting partners at Chalkbeat write.

What's happening: The gaps are spurring an arms race of incentives to lure job seekers, raising pay and boosting benefits.

  • Denver is touting its health insurance plan, entirely free to employees.
  • A district in Colorado Springs is offering a $2,500 bonus for newly hired teachers, support staff and special service providers.
  • A Brighton district touts its four-day week and mental health support.

Reality check: The staffing needs are not a new problem. "In general, we are not seeing anything different this school year than past school years, and I'm not seeing anything that is majorly off,” says Lacey Nelson, Denver's director of talent acquisition.

The big picture: School districts nationwide are taking extraordinary measures to get enough teachers in their classrooms before the academic year kicks off, our Axios colleagues report.

  • Des Moines Public Schools is offering a $50,000 incentive to teachers, nurses and administrators who are nearing retirement.
  • The Dallas school district set aside $51 million for salary increases and $52 million for retention bonuses.
  • Florida is issuing temporary teaching certificates to veterans "who have not yet earned their bachelor's degree."

Zoom in: One particular problem in Colorado is finding bus drivers.

  • In Jefferson County Public Schools, nearly a third of 283 driver positions were unfilled less than two weeks before the start of the school year and the district is cutting bus routes.
  • The problem is pay and high demand, drivers and officials say. “You think about Amazon, they need drivers,” Nelson said. "The post office, FedEx, UPS, they all need drivers."

Read more from our partners at Chalkbeat

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