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Area superintendent part of TEA task force addressing teacher shortages

The Texas Education Agency created the Teacher Vacancy Task Force to take a look at the staffing challenges public schools across the state are dealing with.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 1:19 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Teacher shortages are not a new problem, but it’s one the pandemic has aggravated. Now, Texas education officials are hoping to get to the bottom of the problem with a new task force.

The Texas Education Agency created the Teacher Vacancy Task Force to take a look at the staffing challenges public schools across the state are dealing with. This comes after Governor Greg Abbott directed the TEA to look into the issue.

Lampasas ISD superintendent Chane Rascoe is on the task force. He said like many other school districts, they have open positions they are struggling to fill. Rascoe said in his 11 years as a superintendent, he’s never seen so few applicants for jobs. He said he’s personally seen where they don’t have applicants for some positions.

“10 years ago, you would have for a teaching position, you would probably have at least seven to 10 applicants, and you’d interview a good one,” Rascoe said. “Before that back, 15 to 20 years ago, you’d have as many as probably 20 applicants for some jobs.”

Rascoe said the educator prep programs and traditional routes are not providing enough teachers to fill open positions, which means they have to hire people who may not be as qualified, and he said that’s not good for the students.

“We need quality teachers, and we need a supply of teachers to be able to interview and select the best one,” Rascoe said.

He added a lot of good feedback came out of the first meeting, and said the task force is a step in the right direction.

“This issue is going to go far beyond just one group of people coming together to talk about issues,” Rascoe said. “It’s going to take a concerted effort by everyone because teachers, they have faced a lot of challenges over the last couple of years.”

Education Service Center Region 12 said there’s always been a need in some positions, like bilingual teachers and special education. Jennifer Marshall-Higgins, director of customer and marketing services for Region 12, said the need is growing to other positions, like bus drivers, teacher support and more.

Marhsall-Higgins said Region 12 works to help fill those gaps by hosting a yearly job fair, which is coming up on April 6, as well as posting a jobs page for the 12 counties in the region. Additionally, Marshall-Higgins said they work to help people who may want to work as a substitue teacher or paraprofessional get the training and certification needed to serve in those roles.

As a provider of professional development for educators and school personnel, Marshall-Higgins said Region 12 is always working to make sure students and staff feel supported in their roles, and have the training to grow. She said the task force brings necessary attention to the shortages school districts are facing.

She also encouraged people to share their thoughts with the task force, including teachers.

“Teachers are going to be able to share their perspective from the classroom and to say what the needs are of students,” Marshall-Higgins said. “They’re going to be able to give ideas on how to recruit additional teachers and to share what works well and what supports them and their job.”

There has been some criticism of the task force because only two of the members are current teachers, but the TEA said in a press release that “the Teacher Vacancy Task Force will rely heavily on the presence and input of current teachers; additionally, TEA plans to have a designated teacher panel in future Task Force meetings to ensure that the agency is receiving guidance and feedback from a diverse and representative range of teachers across Texas.”

On Tuesday, the TEA announced it would expand the task force to include 26 total teachers “to ensure equal representation of teachers and school system administrators.”

Josue Tamarez Torres of Forney, a 4th and 5th grade math teacher from Dallas ISD, will serve as chair of the task force. It was also divided into workgroups to address some of the challenges discussed so far.

“It is imperative that we include the insights and recommendations of current classroom teachers as the task force works to identify strong recommendations that can address the staffing shortages facing school systems across Texas”, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement. “This expansion strengthens the Task Force and includes more perspectives as we work to find far-reaching solutions to these challenges.”

Anyone who would like to submit an idea or volunteer to present or be a panelist for the task force can fill out a form online, although the TEA said not everyone will be able to participate given the amount of interest received.

According to the TEA, the task force will meet every other month for a year. Commissioner Mike Morath and agency leadership are expected to lead discussions, and insights will be gathered from experts throughout the state, including from teachers.

More information about the task force, including a list of members, is available online.

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