Fewer New Teachers, While Experienced Teachers Keep Leaving
87 open positions in Cumberland County schools is about 1 open position per school, a statistic reflected in most of the state. This ongoing problem for properly appreciating teachers in NC is not sustainable.
And it wasn't just in Cumberland County. The situation was similar not only at other school systems in the state but in other parts of the country. Educators say the country is in the midst of a teacher shortage, with fewer people seeking education degrees on one end of the spectrum and more experienced teachers leaving the profession on the other.
But they say the squeeze is particularly felt in North Carolina, where average teacher pay ranks 47th in the nation, the only significant raises in recent years have been given to newer teachers, and the Republican-dominated legislature is battling to strip teachers of vested tenure rights.
"I think a variety of factors are having an impact," Reyes said. "I'm sure pay is one. When you look at where we rank against other states, especially those that border us, it makes it harder to recruit."
The situation also hasn't been helped by tough new licensing requirements for people who want to teach elementary school.
Reyes said science, math and special education teaching positions have always been harder to fill. But there used to be plenty of qualified people vying for teaching jobs in elementary schools.
Their numbers have dwindled in the wake of the change in licensing requirements for elementary school teachers. The state started requiring would-be elementary school teachers to take more and different tests than it once did. Educators say the tests cost at least double what they used to - about $600 - and require more time.
Because they're held only at intervals through the year, it takes even longer if the applicant fails a test and has to retake it.
The newer test isn't required for licensing in surrounding states.
"It's really impacting your college graduates and people ... from out of state because we don't have full (licensing) reciprocity with all the surrounding states," Reyes said.
Meanwhile, Reyes said he thinks many experienced teachers are retiring sooner because, with their stagnant pay, their eventual retirement pay won't rise and they have no financial incentive to keep working.