Public schools across North Carolina are trying to figure out what to do about teacher shortages. Many districts are struggling to fill vacancies and keep educators in the classroom.

WFDD's Keri Brown spoke with Ann Bullock, the dean of the school of education at Elon University, to take a deeper look at what's being done to fix the problem.

Interview Highlights

On what the teacher shortage looks like in North Carolina:

In North Carolina, there are teacher shortages in both licensure areas and in areas of the state. For example, there's a shortage, still, for math and science teachers at the high school level, there are still shortages for special education teachers and they're beginning to see shortages at the elementary level, just with the pipeline of teachers not being as robust as it has in the past. In addition, there are shortages in many of the rural areas of the state...and also the areas that touch the borders of other states. So if you live on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, many teachers will cross the border to receive higher pay.

Additional reasons why there's a teacher shortage in the state:

I would say most states in the South have a teacher shortage, because that's where the population growth is happening. So if you look at the population and the way the population is shifting in the U.S., the teacher shortage follows that. And then in North Carolina, they've done some things that have added to that by taking away teachers' masters pay, taking away the incentive of paying for a national board. So some of the perks that teacher's got in the past, or some things to recognize their professionalism are not currently in play.

Also, we are dealing with a generation of young teachers along with everyone that is a young professional that's on the move. So if you look at Generation Z, you will see that they like to move around and they don't usually stay in their same job more than three years and then they change to a different job. They might be a teacher somewhere else. And the teacher behavior is following that as well.

On what the North Carolina Board of Education is considering to help address the issue:   

The state board is trying to look at ways to entice out-of-state teachers that come to North Carolina to fill classroom vacancies by looking at the credentials that they receive in their states to become teachers...

The state board has asked Tom Tomberlin from DPI [the Department of Public Instruction] to look into some alternative ways to accept teacher candidates without [putting] more burden on them to come in to the state.

On other initiatives and proposals to address the teacher shortage sooner than later:

I think different parts of the state are doing different things: [for example] the State Employee Credit Union Foundation is building teacher housing in Dare County because it's very expensive to live there, so that's an enticing piece to get individuals to come teach on the coast.  So I do believe that there are a lot of people listening to what teachers are saying and looking at the data of retention.

You see school districts offering a lot of support for beginning teachers, knowing that it's a hard job from day one – a very rewarding but a hard job from day one – and trying to do some things at the school district level. So I think there are a lot of discussions around this and a lot of people have this on their plate, including the legislature, so I believe you will see some initiatives coming through, some monetary and some support mechanisms to help address this teacher shortage, which I think is going to be a good outcome for North Carolina.

(Ed.: This transcription has been lightly edited for clarity.)

*Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on twitter @kerib_news

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