ST. PAUL, Minn. - There is a teacher shortage in Minnesota and it has become a crisis, according to Education Minnesota, the state’s largest teachers union.
Fewer people are entering the field and more are leaving it, said Education Minnesota President Denise Specht. She is a fourth generation teacher who says working in a classroom is getting tougher.
“Teachers are frustrated by giant class sizes, the insane pressure to raise test scores on deeply flawed tests and the lack of autonomy to respond to our students,” she said.
A new report from the union found the hardest positions to fill are special education, math and science teachers as well as teachers of color. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Education there were more than 58,000 teachers working in public schools in 2013-2014.
But because of the shortage districts hired more than 3,500 teachers who lacked the necessary licenses.
“We have certain licensure areas where we are short not just five or ten teachers but hundreds and hundreds of teachers where we simply can't find someone to teach,” said Carrie Lucking, the director of policy, research, and outreach for Education Minnesota.
Keeping good and qualified teachers isn't easy either.
“I love my profession and at this point I intend to stay because I believe in its power. However, there have been many moments in my career where I have considered leaving,” Verna Wong, an English Language Learner teacher at Champlin Park High school said.
Wong said support and mentorship programs for teachers of color like her don't exist. On top of that, low wage and high stress make it hard to stay.
Education Minnesota is proposing several solutions to attract and keep good teachers. The union wants to build a pipeline program to get students interested in teaching as early as high school. It also wants to change the licensure process and provide a stronger financial incentive. Once teachers get into their careers the union wants more collaboration between educators and administrators, stronger financial benefits and more professional development.