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Education Officials, Lawmakers Will Study Teacher Shortage

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Utah education officials will convene this summer to take a deeper look at why the state is having trouble recruiting and keeping teachers in the classroom.

Utah’s teacher shortage is not new. In fact, today’s retention rates are comparable to the years prior to the economic recession. Education officials say historically, it’s easier to find and keep teachers in a struggling economy. But right now, Utah is shedding teachers at a faster rate than the rest of the nation.  So what’s happening? Everyone has an explanation, including Rich Nye, interim deputy superintendent for the Utah State Board of Education. He says the rate of retirement is exacerbating the shortage.

“Our student enrollment continues to increase by about 110,000 a year, which would also create more demand for teachers,” Nye says.

Other culprits?

“Money is one of them,” says Republican Representative Brad Last. “The teaching environment is one of them. Class size for example may be one of them.”

Last is co-chair of the Education Interim Committee, which met Tuesday. He says there is a lot of anecdotal evidence for the shortage. But there’s no real data. That’s why the state school board and Utah lawmakers will convene a task force this summer to do some data-based research. 

“And then with that data try to craft policies going forward that will help us figure out how to attract people, how to retain people, and how to make teaching a revered profession in the state of Utah,” Last says.

The task force will likely convene in July.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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