Some Truth About Montana’s Teacher Shortage

May 10, 2022 / Comments (0)

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by MFPE President Amanda Curtis

Here are a few quick notes on educators graduating from colleges here in Montana that are timely and informative, especially with the ramping up of messages around educator shortages.

US DOE has released their annual report on National Teacher Preparation Data (full Title II report). In 2019-2020, there were 2,283 college students enrolled in Montana in a teacher prep program (73% female; 85% white, 6% American Indian).

In 2019-2020, 557 completed their program. This is fairly comparable to prior years (566 in 2017-18 and 614 in 2018-19). Estimates of how many teachers we need each year range from 600-900 teachers, depending on the source. Somewhat counter to this, however, the MT DLI published a 2017 report on supply and demand for various careers. Overall, it found that we actually had MORE graduates than needed in education.

Montana is especially well-supplied for elementary education, SpEd, and administration, and sufficient early childhood education graduates. Secondary education had a gap, but that is partly corrected by the fact many secondary teachers have a different primary major.

My personal favorite quote from the DLI report: “If employers find it difficult to fill oversupplied occupations, then the issue is likely one of distribution and retention, not capacity”

That’s code for “pay them, respect them, cover their health insurance premium, get them the resources the need to help students and families, and THEN they won’t go to Wyoming.” Montana graduates WANT to stay in Montana, but they are exiting Big Sky Country because their health insurance premiums eat up their take-home pay, Montana is bottom of the barrel for salary, there’s no housing, and our elected leaders are politicizing the profession.

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