Teacher shortages spurring 4-day weeks, hefty sign-on bonuses

By Shain Bergan, Marleah Campbell and Joseph Hennessy

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    KANSAS CITY, Missouri (KCTV) -- The nationwide teacher shortage is forcing school districts in Kansas and Missouri to make some big changes, including 4-day weeks for some and hefty sign-on bonuses for new employees.

The Missouri Department of Education and Secondary Education says there were more than 3,000 in-state teaching positions that had to be left vacant or filled by unqualified candidates last school year. Educators spoke with the state Board of Education’s Blue-Ribbon Commission Wednesday about their concerns heading into this school year.

Chief among the needs for teachers were extra support and increased pay---and many districts are adjusting by shortening the school week. Around 135 districts statewide are implementing a four-day week to combat the shortages.

The state Board voted in June to allow potential teachers to qualify for a certificate if they miss 1-4 questions on the certification exam. Around 550 teachers missed the qualifying score, but had already completed the accredited program.

Gov. Mike Parson approved nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to increase minimum pay for Missouri teachers to $38,000, where the state directly pays for 70 percent of that. The National Education Association says the national average starting wage for educators is around $41,000.

The 22-member Blue-Ribbon Commission has a survey available until Friday at 4 p.m. for educators to share their opinions. You can find that here.

And Over in Kansas

New data shows Kansas could face its worst-ever teacher shortage this fall. Around 1,400 in-state teaching jobs are unfilled as students and staff head into the school year, the biggest shortage ever seen.

In response, Kansas City, KS, Public Schools is hosting a career fair Thursday, and for the first time ever, they are offering a $1,500 sign-on bonus for all full-time new hires, as well as a $750 sign-on bonus for part-time hires. The district is looking to fill positions from instructional aides and paraprofessionals to school nurses, nutritional service workers and support staff.

Those sign-on bonuses kick in 90 days after joining the district.

The career fair kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and wraps up at 6:30 p.m., at the KCK School District’s Central Office at 59th Street and Parallel Parkway.

The school district’s assistant director of recruiting said before the pandemic, they would typically be dealing with a much smaller need, but teachers are leaving because they’re moving or leaving the profession. The pandemic has also been a major factor.

“Just a lot of stress, a lot of the unknown factors as we have come out of the pandemic and as we are here in the school district,” said Cynthia Fulks, the district’s assistant director of recruitment and substitute staffing. “So this will not change: Our students still need to have their education, and they need to advance in their learning from the things that have happened during the pandemic.

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