Just weeks before school starts, many school districts across Mississippi are scrambling to find teachers. Educators say without a pay hike, the teacher-shortage problem in many parts of the state will only get worse. Right now, 48 school districts in Mississippi have 465 teacher vacancies.
Many school districts on the Coast don't have a shortage of teachers now, because local districts provide bigger supplements to teachers' base salaries, and many teachers like the living conditions here. Also, USM-Gulf Coast and William Carey College provide teacher education programs. However, some administrators predict the shortage will eventually happen.
Sue Mathison with the Pass Christian School District says schools are continuing to reduce the student-teacher ratio in the classroom, specifically Kindergarten through 3rd grade. As schools do that, they are hiring more and more teachers. So it's possible in the future, they may run into a problem.
Gulfport School Superintendent Carlos Hicks says because there are fewer people majoring in education in college than there are people preparing to retire from teaching, it's just a matter of sheer numbers. He says schools will need more teachers than people preparing to be teachers. Administrators say they are having a tough time finding teachers to fill specialized positions like Physics, Band and Special Education.
Carlos Hicks says school districts can hire and keep qualified teachers by providing these following incentives:
- Give teachers a bonus when the sign contracts.
- Offer them free first month's rent.
- Offer no interest home loans.
- Provide additional bonuses if they work in hard to find positions, like Special Education.
- Restructure school days or school calendars to reduce the time students spend in school.