TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials said they are seeing a higher pace of teachers retiring while the number of newly licensed teachers in the state remains flat.
More than 2,000 teachers retired last school year, double the number from five years earlier, the Kansas State Department of Education said in its annual report on the state's education workforce.
Scott Myers, the department's director of teacher education and licensure, said the numbers are subject to error because they rely on self-reported data from school districts.
About 2,500 new teachers received licenses last year, nearly the same as five years earlier, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1CAao3O ). Meanwhile, the state saw an increase of 13,400 students over the same period.
School districts also reported a decline last year in the number of licensed elementary teachers they employ. Some rural schools said they had an unexpected difficulty hiring elementary teachers this summer.
"It's unheard of," deputy education commissioner Dale Dennis said, adding that elementary jobs have always been the easiest for schools to fill. "The pool is really changing."
Some districts in past years didn't advertise their elementary teacher openings because they received a steady stream of resumes, Dennis said.
Garden City school district's deputy superintendent, Steve Karlin, said school officials began noticing a shortage of elementary applicants last year. The district is short seven elementary teachers this year. Five long-term substitute teachers were hired and the two remaining positions were dealt with by shifting students and increasing class sizes.
"We've always faced a challenge getting people to consider living in rural Kansas," Karlin said, but the district hasn't normally lacked elementary teachers. "This summer it was a challenge from the beginning."
But other Kansas schools say they had plenty of job applicants this summer.
"We are seeing fewer applicants — significantly fewer applicants — but it's not at a point where it's critical or a crisis yet," said Marty Stessman, superintendent for the Shawnee Heights school district.
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com