Teacher shortage? How about 7,300 backlogged applications?

The narrative is we have a teacher shortage.

In February, Superintendent June Atkinson blamed the shortage on not enough teachers entering the profession:

StuffAtkinsonSaysState Superintendent June Atkinson is concerned about a growing teacher shortage in North Carolina. 

She says over the last five years there’s been a thirty percent drop in the amount of university students in North Carolina seeking a career in education. 

Atkinson says low teacher salaries are partly to blame, but recruitment and retention need to be top priorities.

The truth is that in March we had 7,300 backlogged teacher licensing applications in this state.

Morgantown.com reports on 28 teachers in Burke county still waiting on their applications to be processed. Meanwhile they are having to serve as substitute teachers:

“(NCDPI CFO Philip Price) said they’re down to two positions (in the allotment department),” Lawson said. “They are not being provided the funds to replace positions because of budget cuts and (Price) anticipates even further cuts to the department in the 2016-17 budget. 

“DPI has to clear a license for a teacher before we can pay them as a teacher, so we pay them as a substitute until then. That is $103 per day versus $35,000 per year or $3,500 per month, which equates to far more than $103 per day. (These teachers receive) no benefits or matching or contributing state retirement until the issue is cleared. With that part, we can only go back three months and we can’t go back beyond that. So obviously, we have teachers already who are losing out on contributions to the retirement system because we’re still paying 28 teachers sub pay because of licensure issues.”

Lawson said there doesn’t seem to be an immediate solution to the problem of short staff at DPI. In fact, it may be getting worse.

“(Price) when he talked with us said he had had another person, who we had actually worked with who was our personal contact, had left the day prior to that to take another position. They are able to process 300 licenses a day with the current staffing levels. They have still 7,300 licensure issues backlogged to process. 

“So you do the math. They can’t possibly get through processing them all by the end of the school year.”

Isn’t this one of the Department of Public Instruction’s main jobs? Hiring and licensing teachers?  Arguably yes.

Is DPI working on it? Apparently so.

There was a licensure update at the last Board meeting. A hand out noted the status March outstanding licenses and then showed the status in April.

In March, the total was 7,892; A good 500+ more than reported by the media.  The April number was 4,654.  That’s a one month drop of 3,238.

That same hand out cited the receipt of, on average, 820 applications received per week. Yet, we have a teacher shortage.

Also — How about that background screening process? Where are we with that? It was discussed at the State Board planning meeting on April 6th. The board’s attorney, Katie Cornetto, provided a presentation.

The presentation included four main suggestions:

1. Fingerprint Criminal Background Checks Prior to Issuing a License
Requires: Legislative and Policy Changes, Fingerprinting Fee ($50) and Additional Staffing Resources

2. Add Application Questions to Improve Self-Reporting
Requires: Application Modification

3. NASDTEC Access for Districts
Requires: Successful Pilot, Membership Fee per District

4. Implement Other Recommendations Proposed by Task Force
Requires: Policy Changes and Staff Resources


About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
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