Story by Kailen Stucki
With nearly 12,000 new students flooding into schools last year, The Utah State Board of Education found a stress in providing the proper education for these students. Utah turned to the idea of passing a new law that would encourage more teachers to teach the increasing number of students in schools. This new law allows individuals to retain a teaching license with lesser criteria to become a certified educator. The logic of this new strategy was to fill in the gap of the lack of teachers and feed the 12,000 students the education they need.
Some might agree that the future of education in Utah is on shaky grounds. Because of the shortage of teachers impacting the schools, there was a need for a quick solution. While most teachers quit after their first year, their decline does not suffice for the growth of students each year. Deseret News reported that the percentage of teachers leaving weighed in around 42%. In an attempt to fix this issue, the Utah State Board of Education voted for a new teaching license that allows individuals with a bachelor’s degree and other proper reviews to teach in schools. Education and teaching go beyond lecturing the basic education one must have an understanding of classroom management and valuable credentials. This new law is thought by many, including teachers Karli Gilette and Jane Smith*, to limit both the Utah education values and qualified educators.
The University of Utah education program is a four-year lecture and fifth-year student teaching sequence. These classes go into depth on beneficial ways to teach students, how to handle classrooms, what to do with students who are behind, how to teach ESL students, and many other beneficial topics. To better prepare education majors, the U has future teachers student teach in a class for a year for a better hands-on experience. It is a long program with a lot of work, but the U wants students to be ready. It seems almost ironic how multiple universities stress the importance of fully developing an understanding of how to teach, but the Utah State Board of Education is accepting anyone and whatever knowledge they have to teach our future of students. A fifth-year student teacher in the University of Utah Education Department, Karli Gilette shares her thoughts about the new law. She values her year of student teaching and has learned the best ways to help the students, but she finds the law creating tension and stress in the schools. Not only does this law set back the future of the students’ education, it sets other teachers behind as well. Gilette believes “This new law is backfiring every situation.” Although this law provides the amount of teachers needed in the schools, Gilette finds that these individuals could be missing out on five years of treasured knowledge. “It’s been my most valuable year, I’m happy to be student teaching. If you don’t complete the education program you miss out on opportunities to learn the best way to help the students.”
The less than ideal monetary factor of teaching is an influence to current and future teachers. Utah’s teacher salary is a low budget and educators are finding other ways and jobs to makes ends meet. Between their crunched school day hours and after school preparation and meetings, most teachers have little to no time for extra work. With the Utah State Board of Education’s starting pay being $34,000, there is no surprise why many teachers are financially frustrated with the unfair ratio of their previous years of schooling and over-working with a low salary. Now with the new law, teachers jump into the $34,000 without the required education degrees. While raising the compensation seems likes a rational idea, an increase in taxes fires back. Teachers are quitting, students are coming and Utah laws are still struggling.
Jane Smith, a fourth-grade teacher of three years shares how she has been affected by the teacher shortage. She speaks to me about the new coworkers that are specialized in special education and not certified for fourth-grade education. Because they graduated with a different degree, there is a difference in the ability to control a large classroom because their degree specialized with small classrooms. “Teaching is so much more than just learning the material and liking kids; it is managing 25+ students at one time, teaching students at their level (which takes training and lots of practice), it takes child development knowledge and so much more.” It is no surprise that this law has shaken up the schools and been an adjustment for all the teachers, and the promise of filling classrooms with new teachers is not as hopeful as it seemed and is not in the best interest of the students.
While the schools struggle with the lack of teachers and unqualified individuals, there is a hope for a long-term law passed soon to prevent these issue and find a permanent solution. A potential solution to this could be having the prospective teachers take specific classes to better prepare them for managing the students and classrooms. Promising enough, the law is being altered and tweaked at each meeting and discussed by teachers everywhere. Students deserve the finest education, and Utah is working to provide the necessary means. Until then, teachers like Jane Smith will continue to believe that, “Having teachers without an education degree teaching school is absolutely crazy.”
*Name change due to personal privacy