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Herald editorial: Teachers need resources to help educate students

September 16, 2018

We hope that readers found our recent series “The State of Education in Utah Valley” to be illuminating without feeling like homework. We’re not going to quiz you on everything that was published in the two-week series, but there are some lingering questions that we hope you’ll help work to answer.

These are puzzles that our state leaders are struggling to answer, and we’re sure they would appreciate your help to provide solutions. Just this week, Gov. Gary Herbert joined State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson and Envision Utah CEO Robert Grow in putting out a call for people to consider entering the profession of teaching and encouraged those who left the field to consider returning to classrooms.

So, what are the best ways to encourage people to become teachers and then to help retain them once they enter the field?

It appears schools across the state are seeing some success with hiring teachers with non-traditional licenses under a program called Alternative Routes to Licensure. People pursuing such a route often bring field-specific knowledge, but often need support transitioning to being in front a class of students.

When it comes to the statewide shortage of teachers, the Alpine, Nebo and Provo school districts have benefitted from hosting Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. Local schools aren’t using as many ARL teachers because those institutions provide a large influx of new instructors each year. It’s a shame that many of these former university students are from out of the area and they often return home.

Moving out of the area is a common reason cited by many teachers for leaving local schools. Among all teachers that leave local school districts, about a third indicate they’re leaving for family reasons while another third say they’re moving from the area.

While pay is often also cited as reason for leaving, it appears clear that teachers at all levels of experience — especially newer teachers and the ARL instructors — could benefit from additional support from the district. We appreciate that local districts are working to provide mentors and instructional coaches for some teachers. We hope that districts evaluate the success of these programs and expand them if they prove effective.

Although pay isn’t the utmost reason why many teachers leave, it’s certainly an issue that should be addressed. Utah is ranked 46th out of 50 states and Washington, D.C. in average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association. While Utah generally has a reputation of being an affordable state to live, some things have become increasingly expensive — especially housing.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy for local districts to increase wages, as they receive most of their funding from the state.

We hope readers will call on lawmakers to continue working to ensure that teachers are paid the wages that they deserve. We also hope that voters will consider Question No. 1 — the ballot initiative that would add a 10-cents-per-gallon tax for motor fuel rates. This would help increase specific funds for roads and free up general fund revenue that lawmakers could dedicate to education.

Unfortunately, as our series shows, there are no easy answers, but we urge all to keep working to ensure our children have the best teachers possible.

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