"Iowa is no longer a destination" for teachers, recruits warn
Des Moines Public Schools is increasing its investment into staff retention as it becomes more difficult to recruit teachers — particularly from out of state.
Why it matters: Teacher shortages create challenges in maintaining a normal school day.
- In the past, metro districts have been forced to combine classrooms, substitute study halls for classes and get teachers to cover more often.
Driving the news: During Tuesday's school board meeting, interim Superintendent Matt Smith said some potential out-of-state recruits have expressed hesitation to work in Iowa because of the political climate.
- "We are finding, and I am actually being told by many folks that we look to recruit from outside the state, that Iowa is no longer a destination," Smith said
The big picture: There's been tension between the metro's urban districts and Iowa's Republican Legislature.
How we got here: In recent years, lawmakers have proposed legislation that restricts how teachers run their classrooms and the materials they provide.
- The most prolific legislation last year involved former Senate President Jake Chapman saying teachers have a "sinister agenda" and he proposed criminal charges against those that provide "obscene" materials.
- In 2021, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill banning teaching about systemic racism and sexism, causing confusion about whether teachers are allowed to have Black Lives Matter signs in their classrooms.
- And this year, Reynolds' education bill that's passed the Senate prohibits teaching about gender identity in K-3rd grade and using a student's preferred pronoun without parental permission.
What they're saying: Historically, potential teachers have looked up to Iowa's education system. But the current rhetoric from lawmakers is dissuading new recruits, Smith said.
- "When folks are looking to relocate to Iowa to be a part of this community and a part of the state, they're having second thoughts about that."
Between the lines: Fewer college students are majoring in education, which is contributing to long-term shortages.
By the numbers: The district is hiring a higher number of its student teachers than before to fill its staffing needs. In fall 2022, 50% of the district's 58 student teachers were hired.
- About 98% of teacher vacancies this year are filled, Smith said
Show me the money: DMPS is spending $81 million next fiscal year on staff retention, which includes insurance, retention bonuses, mentorship and leadership training.
- The district estimates it can cost them up to $20K to try and recruit a new teacher.
Of note: The board approved a 3% pay increase in FY24 for teachers during Tuesday's meeting.
- They are also discussing cutting up to 50 teaching positions to balance the district's $12.2 million budget deficit.
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