Alabama teacher shortage causes state to look in South Korea

The state needs to fill 1900 teaching positions state-wide to reach the desired student-teacher ratio.

Posted: Sep 20, 2019 6:09 PM

State education leaders will soon take a trip overseas, as they find a way to fill math, science and special education jobs.

Alabama is looking at ways to improve their teacher shortage and are looking at options in South Korea.

Rodney Randell is a math teacher at Decatur Middle School and says he thinks the state should be looking at how to solve this problem from the inside.

“I feel like we have enough capable people in alabama. I felt like if teaching was made more attractive it would probably keep more teachers in the system or in the state of alabama”, says Randell.

It's a job few people are applying for and the salary doesn't help districts fill the positions. That's because the Alabama Education Association says the state ranks 37th in teacher pay, with a minimum starting salary of about $39,000

“We’ve gone a long time without a pay raise and we finally just got a pay raise", adds Randell.

Florence Senator Tim Melson is the chair for the Senate Education Committee. He will accompany the state superintendent on the trip to South Korea next month.

WAAY 31 spoke to him by phone, and he told us there is a surplus of teachers in South Korea right now. He also said the state is still looking into all options to fill the teacher shortage. He said they'd rather have teachers from Alabama.

This year lawmakers failed to boost benefits, like better retirement, for teachers.

Wendy Lang, who's affiliated with the National Education Association, points to that as a big reason for the teacher shortage.

“I think those benefits are probably among one of the biggest reasons why folks aren’t looking at this in this point in time”, says Lang.

It would take about 1900 teachers statewide to reach the desired student-teacher ratio in Alabama schools.

Randell says he knows a good place to start, so districts can fill those jobs.

“we would like to be paid at least on the national average, as teachers would normally make”, Randell says.

The Alabama Education Association has created a taskforce to assist in the search for more teachers and will likely submit a report to the state in 4-6 weeks outlining what they should do.

The state superintendent will be on the South Korea trip next month.

The state is paying for the expenses of the trip, and they are also weighing in the many aspects to work out if they try to recruit those teachers and if they could get their visas in time.

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