MURRAY, Utah (News4Utah) As students go back to the classroom, fewer teachers will greet them as Utah continues to experience a growing teacher shortage.
According to job listings provided by teachutah.org, at least 140 full and part-time immediate positions remain vacant as school starts.
Teachers admit the classroom is in crisis after 12 percent of Utah educators left last year and almost half quit since 2013, according to Envision Utah.
Classroom sizes are growing. Teachers cover courses they don’t specialize in. Envision Utah also found two-thirds of new teachers don’t have a traditional teaching degree.
“They’ve had no classroom experience; they’ve had no student teaching,” Davis County second grade teacher Denise Willmore said.
Willmore, a 25-year-educator, believes students suffer when educators have to learn on the job. Experts say the biggest reason for a teacher shortage is low compensation.
“That does affect teachers. If you don’t receive a raise for a number of years, if there is a better opportunity, that’s one reason people are leaving,” Willmore said.
Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews agrees, confirming Utah teachers are traditionally paid less than the national average.
“It’s really a result of years and years of chronic under-funding in public education,” Matthews said.
Good news? Recent financial incentives appear to be working. Canyons, Davis, Jordan, Granite, Park City and other school districts announced raises last school year, some up to sixteen percent.
Matthews said those districts experienced a reduced turnover rate with veteran educators traveling from other districts to teach. However, that leaves impoverished and rural districts with even fewer educators.
“The hardest hit are vulnerable students in a teacher shortage,” Matthews said.