Aug 29, 2022 - News

Teacher and staff shortages hit Utah schools

Illustration of a teacher's chalkboard with "Now Hiring" written across it.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Utah schools are feeling the impacts of the nationwide school staffing shortage.

Driving the news: Teachers in the U.S. are leaving their profession in droves amid the pandemic, censorship and culture wars, all while earning stagnant wages.

What they're saying: "I haven't heard of a single school district or charter that isn't being impacted by the labor shortage," said Malia Hite, executive coordinator of educator licensing for the Utah State Board of Education (USBE).

  • "It certainly is extending beyond just the classroom where we're seeing a lot of needs for educational assistants and nutritional services and bus drivers," she said.
  • Hite said 1.8% more teachers left their jobs at the end of the last school year.
  • To entice applicants, some districts have increased starting pay or offer training, according to Hite.

Zoom in: The Salt Lake City School District is facing difficulty hiring paraprofessionals ahead of the school year, district spokesperson Yándary Chatwin told Axios. Lane Findlay, a spokesperson for Weber School District, said they were hoping to fill over 100 paraprofessional positions.

  • Benjamin Horsley, chief of staff of Granite School District, said it was looking to fill "a handful of outstanding secondary math/science positions going into the school year."
  • Doug Perry, a spokesperson for Murray City School District, said they were struggling to hire support staff.

Catch up quick: In 2016, USBE moved to allow people without teaching experience to join the profession through an alternative training program in an effort to address the state's growing teacher shortage, Education Week reported.

  • Four years later, USBE launched a new program called the Alternate Pathway to Professional Educator License (APPEL) that allows educators to complete their certification requirements while teaching, Hite said.
  • Since its start, the program has licensed 200 teachers and 800 people are currently enrolled.

Yes, but: Hite said about 15% of educators in Utah schools are underqualified and teaching without a professional license.

  • "As far as student outcomes go, students who have teachers who are underqualified do not achieve as high academic rigor as those who have professionally licensed teachers," she said.

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