Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teacher Shortage Escalates Georgia Officials Look for Answers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teacher Shortage Escalates Georgia Officials Look for Answers

Article excerpt

SMYRNA -- More than 100 Georgia school systems are reporting problems finding teachers in math, science and other areas, according to a new state survey.

Partly because of that, thousands of Georgia educators are teaching classes in subjects outside their areas of expertise.

That has Gov. Roy Barnes and members of his education reform commission discussing bonuses, higher pay for teachers in "critical need" areas and more college scholarships.

"You pay them enough, they will come. That's the way business does it," Barnes said yesterday as the funding committee of his education reform task force debated what to do to about the shortages.

John Brown, a policy coordinator with the state Office of Planning and Budget, told the panel Georgia public schools need about 9,000 new teachers each year to keep up with growth, retirements and other losses. Because public colleges here produce so many education school graduates, he said Georgia is in better shape than many other states across the country.

However, Georgia districts are having a hard time finding teachers in key areas, and some rural systems are having trouble hiring anyone, Brown said.

A survey compiled for the commission found 113 of 141 school superintendents who responded said they have trouble filling teacher positions in one or more fields.

For more than half of those, the problem is occurring every year.

The fields of greatest shortages are special education, science, math and foreign language.

Jeffrey Williams of the Georgia School Superintendents Association said the biggest surprise is that shortages are occurring in both urban and rural districts.

As a result, Williams noted, systems have to make educators teach subjects that are not in their areas of expertise.

Many districts have begun extensive recruiting efforts, and some have modified their salary schedules to pay more to qualified teachers in critical areas.

Joe Martin, chairman of the committee and former president of the Atlanta Board of Education, said the problem may be so acute in a few rural areas that "there isn't anything we can do about it. …

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