Ohio educators seeking solutions for ongoing teacher shortage

Ohio educators seeking solutions for ongoing teacher shortage
Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 18:36:22-05

CLEVELAND — School districts in Northeast Ohio and across the country are struggling to find and retain permanent teachers, substitute teachers and staff members. Now, educators are calling on state officials and lawmakers to make changes to ease those issues.

“This could be catastrophic, and it's something I've not seen in my entire career,” said Marilyn Mauck, Chief Instruction and Achievement Officer at the Positive Education Program.

Mauck’s career as an educator has spanned 41 years. She spent 24 years as a teacher and the last 17 as an administrator. She's now the Chief Instruction and Achievement Officer at the Positive Education Program which works with special education students in Cuyahoga and Lorain counties.

Mauck said the program focuses on “providing behavior support, emotional support, support for families if need be, to really look at the whole child and the needs of how we can help that child be successful."

The program needs a staff full of special education teachers to operate, and Mauck said the numbers are dwindling.

“We require a really specific skill set with special education teachers, and we look to universities and colleges and many of them this past December had nobody graduating in special education,” said Mauck.

She said their substitute teacher pool is even smaller, which is putting a strain on the staff they do have, like it is in many other public school districts.

She said she wants the state to step in and break things down so they can start building back up.

“I'd like to personally see some real hard data put together on numbers and trends and data about educators and special education educators and support staff,” said Mauck.

News 5 reached out to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Director of Communications Jeff Robinson said the department does collect data on student enrollments and graduates in specific majors, but the information is only released by request.

The department is also working to address teacher shortages statewide with its Addressing Educator Shortages in Ohio RFP. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of Ohio has made $5.2 million from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to increase the number of candidates admitted to and completing educator licensure programs and address shortages of educators across the state.

Proposals can be submitted by four-year public and private colleges and universities in Ohio that have Chancellor-approved educator preparation programs. The last day for submissions is Feb. 28.

Also, the Ohio Department of Education, which covers grades K-12, has a number of strategies to address the sub issue, including offering a temporary substitute teaching license which will allow people without a Bachelor’s degree to teach. It also has a reinstatement licensure option which makes it easier for districts to recruit teachers with expired licenses.

“It's not a long-term fix. This is a Band-Aid solution,” said Scott DiMauro, the president of the Ohio Education Association. “If you have someone who is a recent high school graduate being placed in a high school classroom, essentially with their own peers, that can pose all kinds of challenges and problems, both for that person serving in the substitute role and for the students.”

DiMauro said he’s heard some districts have had success with high school graduates serving as teachers, and he’s a fan of the reinstatement licensure option. But he wants officials to focus on bigger issues in the long term.

“First off, making sure that substitute teachers are adequately compensated,” said DiMauro. “I also think it's important to look at, you know, learning conditions and look at support systems that are necessary to keep people in the profession and keep people in our classrooms.”

Mauck also wants more attention brought to educational equity, which she believes will benefit both teachers and students.

“For years, it's been a vicious cycle of the haves and the have-nots. Some kids get this and other kids don't,” said Mauck. “Until that's fixed, I think those districts again will pull most of the candidates. They have higher wages, better insurance, better working conditions. That whole collective bargaining agreement looks very different from district to district, and we just haven't really solved that problem in the state of Ohio. So while I certainly think those ideas are a start, I think we have a whole lot more that has to be done and we have to really get that data piece to support it and see what we're working with.”

Ohio Department of Education Chief Communications Officer Mandy Minick said the department works closely with the Ohio Department of Higher Education to support and encourage students in post-secondary teacher education programs. It also works with the organization EdRising to inspire and encourage middle and high school students to consider the teaching profession.

“The thing that fundamentally is the common thread for everyone who goes into education is that they want to make a positive difference in the lives of students, whatever grade level, whatever subject area, whatever particular job they have. That's what really motivates people. And I think we need to do more to elevate and educate and celebrate the teaching profession,” said DiMauro.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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