DIGGING DEEPER: Teacher shortage in Wisconsin - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DIGGING DEEPER: Teacher shortage in Wisconsin

Posted: Updated:

MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin is facing a teacher shortage and part of that problem comes with a shortfall of teachers of color.

A report released this month by the Wisconsin Budget Project finds districts would need to hire more than 11,000 teachers of color to make sure the state's educator workforce has the same racial composition as students. There are 11 white students to every white teacher, but the numbers jump among other ethnicities. The highest is 101 Hispanic students to every Hispanic teacher.

Madison Metropolitan School District officials tell 27 News 54 percent of students in Madison are students of color but just 12 percent of teachers are not white. 

The district has stepped up its recruitment effort in recent years, starting earlier in the year to search for teachers for the following year, to make up for the shortfall.

"We were looking at how to design a better process to ensure that we get high quality staff and diversity of staff," says Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff, executive director of human resources with the district. "There is a direct correlation in getting out into the candidate pools much sooner [to] improve our chances of having diverse teachers."

Part of that process involves reaching out to UW-Madison's education department, but Hargrove-Krieghoff says there are not enough students going into the profession in the state, so the district also has to look outside Wisconsin. Recruiters even look to other countries to find bilingual teachers for the district's dual language immersion programs.

Marisa Flowers, who teaches at Falk Elementary School on the west side, says if students have teachers they can relate to, they have a better chance of success. Student achievement can show a teacher they're making a difference and keep them from leaving a position.

As a teacher of color, Flowers says she works to create a network among other teachers of color at her school and in the district, to provide support.

"We're in an environment where I feel like public education is under attack, but I have to hold on to what's my purpose and what things I can control and how can I support other educators on this journey," Flowers tells 27 News.

That support could make a difference in keeping teachers of color on the job. District officials are working with teachers like Flowers this year to build an education environment they won't want to leave that will help MMSD retain workers and address the shortfall in the long run.

The district's staff to teacher program also helps with the teacher shortage. A UW partnership offers an accelerated teaching degree program for MMSD staff members who want to become a teacher. District officials say six teachers of color went through that program last year.

Meanwhile, state education officials want to address staffing shortages by recommending rule changes to make it easier for people to get a teaching license. The Department of Public Instruction hosted a public hearing Monday to take comment on the proposals that would expand emergency changes adopted last year. 

Tom Heninger, a long-time, former teacher, showed up to speak for the changes, but also to express his concern about a more permanent fix to how we view education in the state.

"The image of being a teacher has been diminished into somebody who was taking our tax dollars and that's become more pre-eminent than what they contribute to our society, so I'm hopeful that in the future we can rectify the situation, the way we view teachers, but I understand in the sense of the bill helping us get through the times that we're in," Heninger said at the hearing.

Rick Melcher, who is running against State Superintendent Tony Evers in the upcoming election, says the changes are not a good solution.

"Overall, it just waters down the teaching profession and it enables the outside influence... we're trying to kill off public education," he says.

Some of the DPI's proposed changes include allowing educators 55 and older to apply for a five-year, nonrenewable license without having to meet professional development requirements, increasing the time a substitute can be in the same assignment, expanding renewal options for emergency licenses and expanding the pathway for teachers to add additional licenses based on content tests.

Powered by Frankly