A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

KY Education Commissioner testifies before House committee regarding teacher shortage, turnover

Education Commissioner Jason Glass addresses the House Education Committee on Tuesday. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The teacher shortage in Kentucky was the hot topic of discussion during a meeting of the House Education Committee on Tuesday, the first committee meeting when lawmakers returned to Frankfort for part two of the 2023 General Assembly.

Education Commissioner Jason Glass told the panel that over the past 10-15 years, there has been a nationwide decline of about a third in the number of people entering teacher education programs, although there has been some stability in Kentucky in recent years. “The University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University have increased in numbers, while other programs around the state have largely dropped in enrollment.”

He testified a former UK dean told him, “While UK has been largely successful in increasing the numbers in their program, bucking a national trend, he was having an increasingly difficult time getting those graduates to take teaching jobs in Kentucky, ostensibly due to the possibility of better paying jobs outside of teaching.”

Glass said there is a 20% turnover in teachers in Kentucky each year and likened it to the difficulty in operating a company where you lose one out of five employees annually. “Poor teacher retention has been shown to negatively impact students’ educational achievement, and a high teacher turnover has been associated with notable drops in academic performance of students, particularly in the tested areas of reading and math.”

One reason for the turnover is stress, according to Glass. “Teachers are reporting increased stress for themselves, and concern for their colleagues, along with reduced job satisfaction.”

While there have been ongoing shortages in early childhood, special education, math and science teachers, Glass said there are also shortages now in elementary education and social studies, which historically have had an abundance in applicants.

In addition to stress, he told lawmakers the shortages are due to a lack of compensation, support, and respect. Some committee members said safety and discipline are other issues that need to be addressed.

Glass said statements of an 11,000 teacher shortage are misleading, in that the number is an annual figure and not for a particular point in time. The actual real time number is quite a bit less.

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