Dorn Testifies on Teacher Shortage Bill
OLYMPIA — January 26, 2016 — The numbers point to a looming crisis: Three-fourths of principals report that they recently taught classes themselves. Emergency substitute certificates have increased by 255 percent in the past three years.
Washington doesn’t have enough qualified teachers. And it may get worse.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn testified on the issue Monday in front of the state House of Representatives Education Committee. Specifically, Dorn advocated for House Bill 2573, his request bill that will give incentives to new teachers and those who choose to teach in poor or rural areas.
“There is a teacher shortage,” Dorn said. “A great example of how it looks is one of my sons. He’s a vice principal in the Bethel School District. One day last week he taught two periods because there weren’t enough substitute teachers. By 12:30 p.m. that day, he had been doing his job for only one hour because of the teaching.”
Statewide data show that the situation is statewide. In the fall of 2015, although school districts hired 2,860 beginning teachers, our colleges and universities produced only 2,485 certificated teachers the prior year.
“That is a crisis,” Dorn said.
He added that there is no single reason for the shortage but pointed to a number of possible reasons. “We laid teachers off during the recession in 2008 and 2009,” he said. “Many didn’t come back. And of those who stayed, a lot decided not to retire also because of the economy.”
Dorn also said that teaching is a much more complex profession than it used to be. “We need more specialized teachers now,” he said, “teachers who can handle a variety of students’ backgrounds. And teachers of the future will need more resources than they have now.”
Among other items, HB 2573 would:
- Provide “signing bonuses” of $10,000 for new out-of-state teachers and $5,000 for in-state teachers hired in small and rural school districts and school districts with high percentages of low-income students;
- Allow recently retired teachers to serve as teachers and/or substitutes without restrictions;
- Increase the state salary allocation to school districts for beginning teachers;
- Increase funding for the Conditional Loan Forgiveness Program for certificated teachers who stay in the profession as required by the program; and
- Increase the number of states with which Washington has licensure reciprocity.
In November, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Association of Washington School Principals surveyed principals around the state. About 93 percent described the teacher situation in their school as either a “struggle” or a “crisis.” And 74 percent reported that they personally had to teach a class in the five days prior to completing the survey.
Many districts have been filling teaching gaps by requesting emergency substitute teaching certificates. In 2010-11, OSPI issued 703; by 2014-15, that number had increased to 2,495. The agency is projecting more than 3,800 by the end of the 2015-16 school year.
Requirements for an emergency substitute certificate are to pass a fingerprint check and a character and fitness questionnaire.
Dorn pointed out the simple but far-reaching implications of the problem. “With too few teachers – and especially with too few qualified teachers – the overall quality of teaching declines,” he said. “And that affects student learning.”
Dorn will testify today in front of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education on Senate Bill 6332, the companion bill to HB 2573.
For more information
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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