Editor’s note: This story is paired with “Utah, like the U.S., is battling a K-12 teacher shortage“
The nation is being affected by a teacher shortage, and Utah is not immune. In fact, the number of school-aged children in Utah is increasing every year, but the number of people enrolling in education preparation program is declining, according to a study by the Utah Education Policy Center.
A recent study the center conducted shows that from 2010 to 2015, Utah was the 5th fastest growing state in the United States, and the number of students enrolling in school increased by 10 percent during that time.
“At First Glance: Teachers in Utah” found the number of college students enrolling in education programs has dropped by more than 2,000 since 2011.
Consequently, the number of school systems without certified teachers is nearing 50 percent, according to a study done by the Utah School Boards Association in 2015. In addition, the pupil to teacher ratio is 23 to 1 compared to the national average of 16 to 1, according to “Understanding Teacher Shortages,” research done by the Learning Policy Institute.
Education programs across the state are struggling to find students that are interested in being education majors, which isn’t helping overcome the teacher deficit.
Emily Eastman, a kindergarten teacher at the Regan Academy in Springville said that when attending a teacher fair at BYU, it was difficult to attract potential educators.
“I was able to go with administration this past year to the BYU teacher fair to help recruit teachers for this 2017-2018 year. We were looking to replace about six teachers,” Eastman said. “There were not many potential teachers at the fair, so all of the various school representatives had to be a little more aggressive in drawing the few in.”
Eastman also said the event ended early because of the lack of attendance.
Linda Rollins, a 7th grade choir and Utah Studies teacher at Joel P. Jensen Middle School in West Jordan, said that her school district “has responded to the shortage by significantly increasing salary. Others are doing the same,” Rollins said. “They recognize that to have quality teachers they need to pay them well.”
The McKay School of Education acknowledges that they need to renew their efforts to attract students to education majors. A member of the McKay School public relations team, Jake Gulisane, said they are starting a new campaign.
“We’re currently working on a new recruiting campaign for the McKay School. It’s still in the beginning stages, but we’re excited about strengthening our recruiting efforts,” Guilsane said.
Despite the low income and lack of benefits, some students are determined to pursue their passion. Elementary education major Courtney Judd said despite her concerns about the amount of money she will make, education best suits her.
“I decided to go into this because I love children and because I felt it was a job that would increase my understanding of and interaction with people of all different kinds,” Judd said.