Budgetary delays worsen Alaska's teacher shortage
Aug. 18, 2017
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Budgetary delays by the Alaska Legislature have put the state's schools in a tough situation.
School officials sent layoff notices to nearly 700 teachers at the end of the past school year. They were under the impression that statewide education funding was dropping.
But six weeks after those notices, the Legislature restored funding to last year's total of $1.3 billion, prompting superintendents throughout the state to ask their slighted teachers to stay.
As of Tuesday, there were 541 school jobs still open in Alaska with the first day of school less than a week away, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reported (http://bit.ly/2xaHBFw ).
Anchorage Superintendent Deena Bishop was able to rehire a majority of the district's 220 laid-off teachers but still has vacant positions, she said.
"It's not unusual to have teacher vacancies after a school year," said Tim Parker, president of National Education Association-Alaska. "The development that's surprising here is that on Aug. 10, there were 45 unfilled positions in Anchorage alone. I don't think that's ever happened before."
In Juneau and on the Kenai Peninsula, the same story plagues districts just as the first day of school draws near.
"What is unusual is having vacancies this close to school starting," Juneau School District Director of Student Services Bridget Weiss said.
Alaska's 53 school districts typically hire 1,000 teachers each year due to high turnover numbers and retirement, Parker said.
"We need to hire that number of teachers because we have a really high turnover rate, about 8 to 10 percent in the urban areas and 33 percent in rural areas," Parker said.
Information from: (Anchorage) Alaska Journal of Commerce, http://www.alaskajournal.com