Idaho school districts seek to fill 900 teaching positions

The Idaho State Board of Education surveyed 115 school districts. Together, 78 districts must fill 894 teaching positions.

BOISE, Idaho — For the first time, the Idaho State Board of Education sent a survey to all 115 school districts in Idaho in recent weeks to get a sense of their understaffing.

78 of 115 districts responded. Together, the 78 districts are currently unable to fill 894 teaching positions.

“I haven’t pulled any information from our charter schools yet, but what I’m hearing so far is that they’re having similar challenges,” said Tracie Bent, planning and policies of the State Board of Education.

Bent said Idaho hadn’t had to conduct a survey like this before, but decided to do so after hearing districts were struggling to staff.

“Anecdotally, what I’m hearing from them is that this is a much higher vacancy rate than they’ve seen in the past,” Bent said. “The pool of applicants, in many cases, they don’t get any or aren’t people who are certified on a standard certificate.”

According to Mike Journee, director of communications for the Idaho Education Association, the reason for teachers leaving is multifaceted.

“Given the kinds of salaries we see in other countries, even in other nearby states, paying teachers and after the long road of COVID-19,” Journee said. “It’s a very trying thing for educators.”

Journee said that right now more than half of educators in Idaho are considering leaving the industry.

“We have a long way to go, especially here in Idaho given the current situation and so it’s understandable, but it’s also a little scary,” Journee said. “The best predictor of good academic performance for any particular student is having a veteran and highly respected teacher in the classroom.”

According to Bent, veteran educators are becoming less common in Idaho.

“We have the option for a school district to do an alternate route for certification. These are most often used for people who have content knowledge, but haven’t gone through the formal training,” Bent said. “So they can have a three-year certificate where they can go to class and get mentorship and additional training.”

Bent said a large majority of new hires come from alternate routes, which means that in three years some may leave.

“The other risk is just putting people in the classroom, because we need bodies that are unprepared to teach our students,” Bent said. “That’s what we have to balance when looking at solutions, that’s what’s the right solution for while maintaining the quality teachers we have and trying to attract people who can be quality teachers.

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