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Where Have All The Teachers Gone: A Look Into Colorado’s Teacher Shortage

Ann Marie Awad
Steve Eaton helps a student finish making a concrete iPhone holder -- his final project for Eaton's design build class this semester.

School may be out for the summer, but principals and superintendents across the state will be hard at work to make sure schools are staffed up for the fall. An estimated 3,000 teachers are needed to fill vacant positions from Durango to Denver. Meanwhile, the state is graduating nearly 25 percent fewer certified teachers -- and a third of teachers will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.

The state legislature has set out to study the issue, searching for underlying causes and possible solutions by the start of the 2018 legislative session. KUNC looked into the issue - examining how this shortage impacts rural schools, how teacher salaries have declined in recent years and how skyrocketing home prices push teachers out of the communities they serve.

Rural Schools Serve As A Canary In The Coalmine For Colorado’s Teacher Shortage

Credit Ann Marie Awad

Outside of the single building that houses Weldon Valley Elementary, Weldon Valley Middle School and Weldon Valley High School, it’s very quiet. Kids are in class, and the school is not near any major roads. Megan Quitter can pick out different bird calls as the sunshine warms the cool morning. Read more.

The Dollars And Cents Of Colorado’s Teacher Shortage

Credit Ann Marie Awad

If you heard that 12 people were living together in a two-bedroom apartment, you might think they were a group of college students, not teachers in the Roaring Fork School District.

“They love teaching in the community, they love working with the students there, but they simply cannot afford housing,” says Amie Baca-Oehlert, Vice President of the Colorado Education Association. Read more.

More Colorado School Districts Turn To Subsidized Housing To Retain Teachers

Credit Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

Trust an architect to hop on board a flat bed trailer and paint a vivid picture of a sustainable -- if not snug -- future house.

Standing atop the donated trailer behind Glenwood Springs High School, Steve Eaton points out where there will be a grilling station, french doors and a loft bedroom -- all to be built by his students this fall. Read more.

Do Mandatory Evaluations Contribute To Colorado’s Teacher Shortage?

Credit Clemens v. Vogelsang / Flickr

Colorado has some homework to do. A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, recently signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, requires the state to study the causes and possible solutions to its chronic teacher shortage. Some of these causes are already known in education circles: declining salaries, sharp rises in housing prices and Colorado’s knotty school finance system. McLachlan, however, offers one more guess. Read more.

Editor's note: when we started this series back in early April, HB17-1003, which mandates a study on the state's teacher shortage, had not passed the Colorado legislature. By our second piece, the bill had reached the Governor's desk. Since then, it has been signed into law and the study has begun. 

Ann Marie Awad's journalistic career has seen her zigzag around the United States, finally landing on Colorado. Before she trekked to this neck of the woods, she was a reporter and Morning Edition host for WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana's capitol. In a former life, she was a reporter in New York City. Originally, she's from Buffalo, so she'll be the judge of whether or not your chicken wings are up to snuff, thank you very much.
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