TEA task force helps address statewide teacher shortage

Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - There’s a new task force in Texas aimed at keeping teachers in the classroom due a statewide shortage.

It came following a letter sent from Governor Greg Abbott’s office on March 7 and its sole purpose is to investigate why these shortages exist.

Jean Streepey, who is a member of the TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force, has been in the classroom for 16 years and said she knows firsthand the issues that many teachers face.

“The goals of the task force are to look at the best practices in these areas but then also to collect information from our teachers, from our administrators, our education prep programs,” Streepey said.

The TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force originally only had 24 members consisting of superintendents, administrators, and only two teachers - which created a lot of backlash.

“They have decided since then to add 24 more teachers to the task force, so it’s balanced between the two,” Streepey said.

Streepey said that’s important because problems can differ depending on where you teach.

In rural areas versus larger cities, teachers face having access to education prep programs and even getting to and from school, among other issues.

“Many times teachers are asked to do non-educational tasks and we need to make sure that when we ask them to do extra things, it’s a valuable use of their time. Of course, we need to look at the pay structure and make sure that our teachers can raise their families and that they have a path for leadership moving forward and a career path,” Streepey said.

Dr. Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent with WFISD, said the district is seeing teacher shortages across its 26 campuses, a problem seen even before the pandemic.

“I think just as a district, we have the same problem as everyone else. We’re having issues bringing teachers in and finding new teachers. We live, we’re two hours away from the metroplex where over there they may have more choices of teaching staff,” Griffiths said.

He said he could have as few as 100 new hires coming in to be a part of a staff of 2,000 teachers every year, and the district has been working to do something about it.

“Something we started with, some of our campuses that have a high economically disadvantaged students we actually had a system in place and we still do where you get like a bonus for working on those campuses because those are hard to fill places,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths explained if he thinks the task force will help in that goal.

“I think teachers need more pay, yes, find us the money for it. We need better teacher preparation programs, yes, find the money for it. It’s all in getting down to that finding out how do we get our teachers what they deserve,” Griffiths said.

“We are really working to make some long-term changes for them. We know that our teachers are the number one factor that impacts student outcome, so anything you do to support a teacher comes back to us for our precious children,” Streepey said.

Streepey said the members from all across the state on the TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force will be meeting every other month for the next year. Their next meeting will take place this summer so they can continue to have conversations and recommendations to the TEA and Texas school districts.

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