LUBBOCK, Texas — Just weeks before students return to class, school districts around Texas are struggling to hire enough teachers.
Seminole ISD superintendent, Kyle Lynch, testified about the issues he has seen in front of the Texas House Public Education Committee on Monday.
“There’s no doubt, it is the most difficult times we’ve ever been in in my career,” he told KAMC News Wednesday.
Seminole ISD, with just under 3,000 students, has weathered the shortage better than most. Lynch says they have just one outstanding position right now, but they still have difficulty recruiting young teachers that usually gravitate toward larger cities.
Lubbock ISD, with more than 26,000 students, has 172 openings for full-time teacher positions just 21 days before the first day of school. Lubbock-Cooper ISD (7,095 students) has about 18 openings, and Frenship ISD (3,036 students) has 5.
The Texas State Teachers Association says Lubbock ISD lost more than 700 people to resignations and retirements in the last year, and Ector County ISD in Midland-Odessa lost over 1,000.
“People just need something to help them feel like they can go into the profession and make a difference, and it’s a struggle right now,” Clinton Gill with the Texas State Teachers Association said.
Teacher advocates and administrators say a combination of factors have made their profession less desirable – including low pay that has not kept pace with inflation, “unreasonable” workloads caused by burdensome state requirements, the demonization of teachers due to “hogwash” beliefs about critical race theory and concerns about school safety.
Superintendent Lynch said the raises allocated by House Bill 3, Texas’ 2019 school finance revamp, have not kept pace with inflation, and other legislation has made their jobs harder.
“We asked an awful lot of them during the pandemic. We asked them to do in-person and virtual, and we come right out of that, and the legislature passed in 2021 House Bill 4545 that required a tremendous amount of remediation for students… it just almost wasn’t doable,” he said. “Just the things that we ask of them day-by-day, so much of it is also based on the A-F rating. The workload is a big issue.”
Gill said he has also been working with teachers on student discipline more than ever. He explained the transition from two years of online learning to in-person expectations has been a rough one for some students, and teachers are no longer willing to put up with persistent disciplinary issues.
“Kids cussing them out, throwing things at them, you name it, they’re doing it,” he said. “It’s not the profession it used to be, and it’s causing a lot of people to not want to go into that.”
Gill and Lynch also mentioned that frustrations over critical race theory debates, state curriculum restrictions and uncertain school safety have worn on teachers.
Yet for the myriad causes, they agree there is a simple solution: pay teachers more.
Lynch advocated in front of the House committee Monday for raising the basic allotment, the mechanism in Texas’ school funding formula that allocates money to district per-student.
“Raising the basic allotment raises all boats,” Lynch said. He believes this change will be especially beneficial for recruiting and retaining teachers because a third of each district’s allotment is set aside for teacher salaries.
“It doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out if you pay them, you give them better benefits, and you give them opportunities to teach in the classroom, then they will come,” Gill said.