TEA Task Force Helps Address Statewide Teacher Shortage
WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) — There is a new task force in Texas aimed at keeping teachers in the classroom due to a statewide shortage.
It follows a letter sent by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office on March 7 and its sole purpose is to investigate the reasons for these shortages.
Jean Streepey, who is a member of the TEA task force on teacher vacancies, has been in the classroom for 16 years and said she knows firsthand the issues that many teachers face.
“The goals of the task force are to look at best practices in these areas, but also to gather information from our teachers, our administrators, our education preparation programs,” Streepey said.
The TEA task force on teacher vacancies originally had only 24 members consisting of superintendents, administrators and just two teachers – which created a lot of backlash.
“They’ve since decided to add 24 more teachers to the task force, so it’s balanced between the two,” Streepey said.
Streepey says it’s important because issues may differ depending on where you teach.
In rural areas compared to large cities, teachers need to access education readiness programs and even travel to and from school, among other issues.
“Often, teachers are asked to do non-educational tasks and we need to make sure that when we ask them to do extra things, it’s a valuable use of their time. Of course, we have to look at the pay structure and make sure our teachers can raise their families and have a path to leadership and a career path,” Streepey said.
Dr. Peter Griffiths, associate superintendent of WFISD, said the district is experiencing teacher shortages on its 26 campuses, a problem seen even before the pandemic.
“I think as a district we have the same problem as everyone else. We have problems recruiting teachers and finding new teachers. We live, we’re two hours from the metroplex where there they can have more choices of teaching staff,” Griffiths said.
He said he could have as few as 100 new hires to be part of a staff of 2,000 teachers each year, and the district has been working to do something about that.
“Something that we started with, some of our campuses that have a lot of economically disadvantaged students, we actually had a system in place and we still do where you get as a bonus to work on those campuses because that are hard places to fill,” Griffiths said. .
Griffiths explained whether he thinks the task force will help achieve this goal.
“I think teachers need more salary, yes, find us the money for that. We need better teacher preparation programs, yes, find the money for it. It’s about figuring out how to get our teachers what they deserve,” Griffiths said.
“We are really working to make long-term changes for them. We know that our teachers are the number one factor influencing student outcomes, so anything you do to support a teacher comes back to us for our precious children,” Streepey said.
Streepey said the statewide members of the TEA Teacher Vacancy Task Force will meet every two months over the next year. Their next meeting will be this summer so they can continue to have conversations and recommendations to the TEA and Texas school districts.
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