Lower numbers for the teacher application pool have affected both Daviess County Public Schools and Owensboro Public Schools as they prepare for the 2019-2020 school year. While teaching jobs used to be extremely competitive in the area, sources from both school districts say things have changed.
“Our applicant pool has been lower in number for the past two years,” said DCPS Assistant Superintendent for Human Services Dr. Amy Shutt. “We are not experiencing a shortage, but the number of overall applicants is lower than we have previously experienced.”
Shutt estimates that DCPS has seen 30 percent fewer applicants over the past five years.
OPS Public Information Officer Jared Revlett said OPS isn’t seeing what he’d call a shortage in applicants, but that the school district isn’t seeing many recent graduates. Instead, Revlett said, OPS is seeing a repetitive application pattern when it comes to open teaching positions.
“We’re not seeing less applications. We’re just not seeing a lot of new, younger faces of people coming out of college wanting to come and teach,” he said. “There’s some fun positions out there. We’re seeing a little less applicants, but the main [concern] is that we’re seeing the same names over and over again.”
Revlett said OPS is particularly having a difficult time filling specialty teaching positions that require specific areas of studies from college graduates. Some of these positions include math, science, P.E. and computer technology.
Both districts said the underlying issue lies in filling middle and high school teaching slots.
“Some certification areas still have a very healthy number of applicants,” Shutt said. “Middle and high school positions historically have fewer applicants than elementary and specialty areas.”
Revlett said OPS sees a lot of elementary education majors applying, but that two components contribute to the lesser number of middle school, high school and specialty applicants.
“There’s a smaller number of college graduates with education degrees,” Revlett said. “Then those with a certificate for teaching math, science and other specialty areas are highly sought-after all across the state.”
Shutt echoed Revlett’s statement in saying a smaller number of college graduates are entering the education workforce these days.
“It would be very difficult to pinpoint the specific reasons for the decline of new educators, but the interest in teaching has not been as high in the past five years,” she said.
Revlett, however, points to tension at the state level as one of the reasons less people are going to college to become educators. Even if Kentuckians do get an education degree, Revlett said the pension debacle and criticism of teachers from state leaders has probably made many college graduates decide to teach in other states.
“I think we’re seeing a result of the rhetorical turmoil from the state level. State-wide, schools are receiving a lower number of teaching applications. I’d be curious to know how many students go to college in Kentucky, get their education degree, then don’t stay in Kentucky,” Revlett said. “How many are we losing?”
Shutt said she’s encouraged about the upcoming school year, despite the decrease in those seeking a teaching position.
“Although the number of applicants is lower in comparison to previous years, I am pleased with the quality of applicants in the available positions in DCPS. We have a large number of student teachers for Fall 2019 and I am impressed with the ones that I have met,” Shutt said.
Revlett said OPS will continue seeking new educators by participating in college recruitment fairs, using social media as a recruiting tool and by getting creative in the ways they incentivize current and new teachers — not through a performance-based rewards system, but a leadership-based one.
“Owensboro isn’t seeing the struggle other places across the state are seeing. A lot of that has to do with the downtown revitalization and the Chamber’s efforts to bring more business and industry to Owensboro,” Revlett said. “We’re seeing more people come back home for teaching positions.”