TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Just weeks before the beginning of their school year, The Topeka Public Schools hosted a hiring fair with a goal to fill 38 teaching positions.
"There is a teacher shortage,” said USD 501 Superintendent, Dr. Tiffany Anderson. “We are continuing to look at ways in which we can be creative and reach beyond Topeka, there is not enough teachers going to the teaching field as there once were many years ago."
The shortage of teachers is an issue that the Board of Education has been trying to fix by assigning a 26 member blue ribbon task force to look into the problem.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, the task force reported that during the 2015-2016 school year; more than 2,700 teachers decided to leave their jobs and a total of 277 teacher positions were left vacant, mostly affecting the Southwest school districts.
"Everybody wants to live in the east and big cities,” said State Board District 5 Representative, Sally Cauble. “Getting families to come back to western Kansas is an issue that we have; it’s not a new problem."
The task force went on to report that one of the many reasons as to why teachers are leaving the classroom is low salaries.
"I think the reason why a lot of teachers leave their profession is because of salary and the lack of respect that they get. Teacher's salaries have been stagnant with slight increases,” said Co-chair of Blue Ribbon Task Force, Rudy Perez.
Board members were given a list of both long-term and short-term recommendations to fix the problem. The recommendations include: launching a state-wide public awareness campaign highlighting the state's public education, providing teachers with stipends, and increasing the funding for teacher's salaries.
"It’ll have to come from the state legislators and that's going to be big hurdles based on where we are at and state budget wise will also be another hurdle,” said Perez.
The task force was asked by the school board to look back into their report and provide even further data, in order to get a clearer grasp on the issue.