Legislators hear from education coalition about teacher shortages, recruitment efforts

by LRC Public Information Office

FRANKFORT — The Interim Joint Committee on Education heard from multiple education leaders and advocates on Tuesday about proposals to ease teacher shortages in Kentucky.

Members of the Coalition to Sustain the Education Profession shared recommendations from an upcoming report on shortages that the group plans to release in August. The Frankfort-based Kentucky Association of School Administrators (KASA) convened the coalition last year.

Rhonda Caldwell, executive director of the KASA, praised lawmakers for acting on a first round of recommendations during the 2023 legislative session and said the latest report will include 17 recommendations and input from 150 people.

She highlighted three recommendations related to sustaining the profession, including one focused on teacher pay.

“Paying our teachers a salary that provides them with a living wage ensures that, most importantly, our quality educators are at the helm of every single classroom and keep Kentucky on par with neighboring states who actively recruit our quality teachers every single day,” Caldwell said.

David Meinshein, superintendent of Livingston County Schools, said the coalition is calling for a statewide minimum salary of $45,000 for new teachers at the start of the 2024-25 school year. The Kentucky average starting salary is $38,010, according to the group.

Other recommendations discussed Tuesday include extending the GoTeachKY program to every school district, establishing a statewide mentoring program and a tenure review committee.

The coalition also supports creating an educator stabilization fund to help attract and retain high-quality teachers in low-performing schools and for critical need positions.

One coalition member, Jim Allen, vice chair of Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc., said he can’t imagine running a business with the type of turnover schools sometimes face. He said a stipend for student teachers and framing education as an investment instead of an expense are good ideas.

“I look at it through the lens of a corporation and how we would address this if it were our issue,” he said. “The data is extremely telling. When you look at the 2021-22 data, it’s the most recently available, you had teacher turnover in Kentucky at 20.4 %.”

Rep. Jared Bauman, R-Louisville, asked why and how the coalition decided to propose the $45,000 figure. Caldwell said it was a practical number, and Meinshein said the ultimate goal will be for $50,000.

Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, said she appreciates the business aspects of the coalition’s presentation and supports a minimum salary for teachers.

“We’ve been hearing for a long time about how dire this situation is,” she said. “I appreciate that you’ve come to us today with some very concrete recommendations. And I’m really just looking forward to working together in a bicameral, bipartisan way in the session to establish what you guys are recommending. Certainly a minimum teacher salary makes so much sense.”

Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Nicholasville, a former teacher and principal, said he has monitored pay in surrounding states and that the minimum salary proposed is very reasonable.

“The name of game is the number of applicants for positions,” he said. “It’s not we have 2,100 openings. If we have 2,100 openings, we need 10,000 applicants.”

The committee’s next meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Aug. 1 at 11 a.m.

Photo: Rep. Lisa Willner, D-Louisville, speaking during the meeting. (LRC PIO)