Licensed Kansas Science Teachers Exceed Available Positions
Release Date: May 6, 2008
There are over 2500 secondary biology teachers licensed in Kansas, while there are only 800 biology positions in Kansas schools. And there are roughly three times more chemistry and physics teachers licensed as are needed in our classrooms. So why does Kansas have a science teacher shortage?
There are many reasons that credentialed teachers are not in the classroom—some are due to personal decisions and some driven by bad policy.
A teacher is tied to a community, by way of home or spouse, and there is no local science teacher vacancy.
A licensed teacher takes a position out-of-state (this is generally balanced by out-of-state teachers who move into Kansas).
A teacher retires at 65 with years remaining on his/her 5-year renewable professional license.
A female teacher takes a few years off to have a family and care for the children until pre-school. The high cost of child care and low teacher pay is a factor here.
Licensed teachers who lay out a few years find it more difficult to re-license because in-service credits for renewal are hard to meet when not teaching.
Science teachers move to higher-paying science-related jobs in industry or government. Sometimes, the critical difference in pay is industry’s provision of better family health coverage which can cost $6000 more per year for a teacher with a big family.
Some well-trained science teachers return to pursue higher degrees and enter medical school, etc.
Teachers seeking faster advancement in pay may move to administration, technology support, or other education jobs that take them out-of-the-classroom. For instance, some licensed science teachers are principals.
And some licensed teachers just do not enjoy teaching.
However, the above reasons have not changed from the 1980s and 1990s, before the teacher shortage. The rapid exodus from the field beginning in 1999, and the trivial supply of new teachers since then, point to a sea change in attitude of many teachers.
Veteran teachers are looking at their KPERS holdings and adding up their years to “85-out” at age 59 or 60.
Students from families where teaching has been the tradition are being told by their parents to consider another profession—that they would not have gone into teaching if it was like it is today, when they began.
High school students who express an interest in teaching are advised to consider another field—by their high school teachers.
The glut in licensed-teachers-not-in-the-classroom is not a supply that can be tapped to ease the teaching shortage; they have left teaching for a reason. And after their licenses expire in the next five years, there will be no “oversupply” to be tapped.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia.