How could W.Va. have a teacher shortage?

The nation will be short approximately 112,000 teachers by 2020 if current projections prove true. It is hard to imagine that a teacher shortage is a looming problem in West Virginia with our older declining population.

Nevertheless, West Virginia University Dean of Human Services Dr. Gypsy Denzine says we do not have enough qualified teachers in high poverty rural areas now, and we will have fewer teachers in the years to come if we do not change the current trends.

To serve students well, we will need more educators in all subjects. Remote rural school get less funding because they have small numbers of students. Full-time equivalent (FTE) funding formulas are based on attendance numbers in each school, and schools with declining numbers have more difficulty ensuring that students have qualified teachers in each subject area.

Across this nation the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) are the areas where teachers are needed most. In West Virginia we have teacher shortages in elementary education and special education as well. Furthermore, West Virginia lacks qualified counselors, school psychologists, and principals.

The WVU Magazine Fall 2017 reported that the average elementary school teacher across the nation earns about $54,000 a year, but in West Virginia they earn $10,000 less. Most of our population lives near the borders of West Virginia where it is easy to cross state lines and teach for better pay.

West Virginia colleges and universities are still preparing enough new teachers to serve the state, but many of them change professions or leave West Virginia within the first five years after graduation. Young teachers mention low pay and a sense of geographic isolation as reasons for leaving teaching positions in rural areas of the state.

West Virginia Teacher of the Year Toni Poling said that one of the key reasons cited by teachers who leave the state is a “lack of support.” Teacher mentoring is one of the first things to be cut from the budget when county school systems need to save money. We need more private funding for professional development and support for teachers.

Kump Education Center has been focused on teacher preparation and support from the outset. We have been collaborating with Professional Development Schools for 10 years and making proposals for teacher mentoring for five years. It is time to renew our efforts with private funds.