SILVERDALE — This session, the state Legislature came up with $1.8 billion more per year for K-12 public schools — a total of $7.3 billion over the four years.
The jury’s still out on whether the Legislature has met, in the state Supreme Court’s eyes, its constitutional obligation to adequately fund basic education.
And now, this new hurdle: the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reports a shortage of teachers.
“Human resource directors were asked about their ability to hire qualified certificated candidates for their teaching positions,” the OSPI website states. “Of those who responded, 23 percent indicated that they were in ‘crisis,’ 74 percent stated that they were ‘struggling, but getting by’ and 2.7 percent said they were doing ‘fine.’ ”
The shortage of teaching candidates is being felt in varying degrees in Kitsap County.
“We’ve had difficulty filling our positions over the last few years,” said Misty Dieffenbach, assistant superintendent for human resources in the South Kitsap School District. “Many states nationwide, including Washington, are facing a teacher shortage.”
Patty Glaser, public information officer for the Bremerton School District, said, “We continue to struggle with some areas more than others, i.e. special education, secondary math and science.”
Jeanne Beckon, assistant superintendent for human resources for the Central Kitsap School District, said CKSD hasn’t had any difficulty filling most positions, and currently has about seven positions to fill for the 2017-18 school year.
An area that has, for years, been difficult to staff: speech and language pathologists and special education. “The number of candidates coming out of teacher programs with a special education focus is smaller than the number of candidates who come out as general education,” Beckon said.
According to OSPI, there are many factors contributing to the teacher shortage, including:
n Implementation of state funding for full-day kindergarten;
n Phased-in funding for class size reduction in grades K-3;
n Increased retirements in the Baby Boom generation;
n Enrollment growth;
n A smaller number of individuals completing teacher preparation programs.
“Based on an analysis by OSPI in January 2016, the estimated shortfall in needed teachers is expected to be approximately 3,500 teachers annually if current trends continue,” the website states.
Dieffenbach said education, as an industry, has a lot of competition.
“Washington is huge in science and technology, and education isn’t as appealing to most college students or high school students entering college or the workforce,” she said. “Then, when we do find teachers, districts are often competing against each other to fill the vacancies.”
Beckon told of CKSD’s recruitment success.
“In our recruiting efforts, we’ve asked candidates what they’re looking for in [a] district. One of the things they often ask about is our induction program and support for new teachers. We’re quite proud of our induction program and the support we provide teachers that are new to CKSD.”
Beckon said a certified staff member works with new teachers, providing monthly support throughout the year for professional development. And there’s a system of peer support.
“It’s a combination of ‘Let’s all get together and talk about teaching and learning and the things that are important for student achievement,’ and ‘Let’s go into the classroom and let me coach you right here, in the moment, with students.’ ”
She added that CKSD is “quite proud of having a competitive salary for classroom teachers.”
Dieffenbach said, “South Kitsap School District is a terrific place to work with a positive, nurturing culture of people that truly care about educating students. Our location and commitment to our educators, community and students is a bonus, but we’ve done even more in the last few years to attract and retain teachers.”
Dieffenbach said SKSD has offered “scholarship opportunities, alternative pathways to teaching, comprehensive professional development plans and mentoring new staff.” She said SKSD has competitive salaries. And, South Kitsap is a “gorgeous place to live and work.”
According to OSPI, the Legislature in 2016 passed legislation intended to address the issue of teacher shortage. SB 6455 provides one-time funding for a recruitment campaign, a recruitment website, and additional grants and scholarships for new teachers. Retired teachers can now serve as substitute teachers for part of a school year without losing their retirement benefits.
Gov. Jay Inslee supports policies that will help alleviate the shortage. He’s proposed raising the minimum salary for beginning teachers, with a minimum 1 percent salary adjustment for all other teachers, and investing $5 million in a mentoring program called Beginning Educator Support Team, or BEST.
“This funding will double the BEST resources available to pair new teachers with qualified mentors, help them develop a professional growth plan and provide time for beginning teachers to work with mentors and observe high-performing peers,” according to the governor’s website.
For more information on the teacher shortage, go to www.k12.wa.us/LegisGov/TeacherShortage.aspx.
To view open teaching positions in the South Kitsap School District, go to skschools.org; in the Bremerton School District, bremerton schools.tedk12.com/hire/index.aspx; in the Central Kitsap School District, ckschools.org.
— Michelle Beahm is online editor for Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@sound publishing.com.