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State Poses Plan To Curb Colorado's Teacher Shortage

State plans to address shortage of minority teachers across the state.

Colorado has about 5,000 open educator positions every year -- but the supply has not kept up with the demand. On Dec. 1, the state released a plan to address the statewide shortage and get teachers back in the classroom.

The Colorado Departments of Education and Higher Education outlined their recommendations in a strategic plan that was submitted to the state legislature. The plan has four key goals: improve teacher retention, increase pay and benefits, attract talent to high-need areas and produce more graduates from educator programs.

KUNC’s Stephanie Daniel spoke with Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director of the Department of Higher Education, to learn more about the recommendations.

Interview Highlights

Why do we have a teacher shortage in Colorado?

Dr. Kim Hunter Reed: We see less student interest in enrolling in education, less students who are completing the program, more teachers who are leaving the profession either to go into another field of study or they are retiring.

Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director, Department of Higher Education
Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, executive director, Department of Higher Education.

Town hall meetings were held around the state to gather input on ways to attract and keep teachers. What did you hear from the community?

Reed: What we found is that teacher shortage is not a one-size fits all problem, so we should not have a one-size fits all solution. In rural areas, we have a certain content area challenges. We have overall retention and recruitment challenges in urban areas. We have certain content-area shortages, as well as a shortage in minority teachers across the state. 

What were the big takeaways?

Reed: We heard three things particularly across all of the town hall meetings and throughout the survey results as we analyzed it, three categories of concern: perception, preparation and pay.

What happens now?

Reed: We will begin what we hope will be a robust policy conversation with many stakeholders to talk about the various options, the challenges and what we see as the solutions that make sense for Colorado.

The “American Dream” was coined in 1931 and since then the phrase has inspired people to work hard and dream big. But is it achievable today? Graduating from college is challenging, jobs are changing, and health care and basic rights can be a luxury. I report on the barriers people face and overcome to succeed and create a better life for themselves and their families.
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