Kentucky education leaders presented information Tuesday on the teacher shortage to the House Education Committee.
The findings showed that fewer teachers are entering the workforce than those leaving the profession.
The issue, though, is complex, according to Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Jason Glass.
“The pressures on the educator labor market are layered,” Glass said. “However, one way to think about it is in terms of how many educators are coming in, how many are leaving and when, and what steps schools are taking to solve what is a growing shortfall between the two.”
Glass detailed that over the past 10-15 years, there’s been a 33% decline in teachers entering the profession, according to data from the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.
“But we also know that the teacher workforce is highly state-specific – meaning that most teachers in Kentucky come from Kentucky,” Glass said. “While there are some state line crossers (both coming in and going out) that are part of the educator workforce, the vast majority of Kentucky’s pipeline for educators come from within the state.”
The data Glass presented showed that teachers coming into the field have stayed at the same pace for about the past five years, but the turnover rate increased to 20.4% during 2021-22. The number was 16.2% in 2020-2021.
“A good national benchmark for this number is around 15%-16%,” Glass said. “Kentucky regularly hovers above this number, and last year we saw a new high, passing 20% in teacher turnover.”
While the turnover rate has increased, there has been some stability in teacher preparation numbers. In 2022-23, the Teaching & Learning Career Pathway / Educators Rising’s enrollment increased to 2,002 from 1,751 in 2021-22.
“This is not to say that this stability has been uniform,” Glass said.
Glass blamed the departure of teachers on COVID-19-related stresses, low pay and the politicization of the position.
“A third reason we are facing teacher shortages relates to the politicization of education over the past few years,” Glass said. “As debates over what to do when it comes to COVID-era policies became increasingly partisan, educators were often caught in the middle of intensely personal attacks where there were no solutions that would appease everyone.”
However, Rep. Russell Webber (R-Shepherdsville) said the Kentucky Department of Education isn’t listening to the concerns of educators, and the reasons Glass listed aren’t why teachers are leaving.
“The number one issue that I hear from teachers who have talked to me is they do not feel supported by the administration,” Webber said.
Webber also said that teachers don’t mention compensation to him. However, they do say they don’t feel safe in the classroom — for example, one teacher mentioned getting attacked by a third grader.
“I’ve had teachers talk to me about being attacked and harassed by third graders,” Webber said.