Some Utah school districts facing teacher shortage, officials say

Posted at 6:19 PM, Aug 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-05 09:03:48-04

OGDEN, Utah - With some schools already in session, and others about to start, some districts are facing a teacher shortage.

It’s a problem being felt across the state, but some districts are feeling the pinch more than others.

Teachers planning on retiring in the next few years are leaving a big hole to fill in Utah classrooms.

“Combine that with increasing number of school-aged kids in Utah, and that puts increasing pressure on districts to find teachers,” said Jack Rasmussen, Dean of College of Education for Weber State University.

Districts look to schools like Weber State to attract new teachers.

Rasmussen said enrollment numbers in education programs at Weber State are declining.

“We’re not supplying more than we use to and right now we need to be increasing the number of graduates we have,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen believes the biggest hurdle is salary.

Utah is 49th in the nation when it comes to average teacher salaries.

Starting pay for elementary schools is $37,000.

Zac Williams, director of communications for the Ogden School District, said pay is an issue for new hires so the district has made some adjustments.

“We’ve increased our starting salary to be higher than surrounding districts,” Williams said.

Other reasons people are opting out of teaching include overcrowded classrooms and too much oversight from the state and federal governments.

The Ogden School District is trying to widen the talent pool, but say it’s difficult.

They’re recruiting year round in and out of state, and offering new hires support while on the job with mentoring programs.

For many though, the reality is in the numbers and educators agree higher wages is the biggest draw.

“I think that’s an issue that’s bigger than just a school district. We need to look at it as a society and say we value teachers, we support them and not politicize what they do. We compensate them fairly, that’s something that’s going to take an effort on everyone’s part,” Williams said.

FOX 13 News spoke to other school districts such as Granite, Jordan, Canyons and Washington in southern Utah.

All of their teaching positions are filled, but they’re worried with the population growing, they may not have enough teachers to fill classrooms in the next five to 10 years.

Districts throughout the state are looking for teachers specializing in mathematics, physics, chemistry and foreign languages, specifically Chinese and Dual Immersion instructors.