Teacher shortages are big concern for superintendents
Woodford County schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins joined other Kentucky superintendents last Tuesday, Oct. 29, in Lexington to share their legislative priorities during the 2020 General Assembly. The top priority these leaders wanted to emphasize is the teacher shortage facing school districts, Hawkins said. “We are all starting to see some much lower numbers in terms of applicants for positions that we have available,” he said. “Some districts are seeing it far more than we have, but our numbers are down substantially in terms of the number of applicants compared to just four or five years ago.” Hawkins said Woodford County schools had over 60 percent fewer applicants for vacant positions this year than five years ago, and it’s a much tougher situation for districts in more rural areas. The challenge facing school districts is reversing that trend. “How do we get more people interested in the profession and … keep those who are currently in the profession …,” said Hawkins. He noted some of his colleagues across the state had no applicants for open teaching positions, and cited critical shortages in most subject areas at Kentucky’s middle and high schools. He said school superintendents are trying to take more of an advocacy role in working with the governor, whomever that may be, and legislators on issues they deem most important to public education. “As we think about how we can continue to improve, how we can make all of our school districts better to provide the best educational opportunities possible for our students – not just here in Woodford County but all across the commonwealth,” Hawkins said, “… it’s really, really important that we talk about those things … that we believe are essential to helping our school districts continue to improve.” Another factor facing Kentucky school districts has been a decline in state funding over the 12 years that Hawkins has been superintendent in Woodford County, he said. He said that puts a greater financial burden on local school districts to pay operating expenses including teacher salaries. The unfunded mandates in the new school safety law are another legislative priority for school superintendents, Hawkins said. “We are all very much in favor of doing everything we can from a safety standpoint, but we do need some assistance from a financial standpoint to help us carry those things out,” he said. To provide more state funding and resources for local school districts, Hawkins said state legislators may need to consider comprehensive tax reform to increase state revenue. “It is really about building those relationships with your legislators and being able to work alongside them, and that’s really what we were trying to do (Oct.29). To say, here are our priorities. We want to work with you on these things … so that we can truly make our public educational system the best it can be,” Hawkins said.