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How is the national teacher shortage impacting rural school districts in Iowa?

Posted at 6:39 PM, Aug 10, 2022

TREYNOR, Iowa. (KMTV) — In just a couple of weeks, the classrooms at Treynor Community School District will be filled with students eager to start the year. But one thing that's lacking here is a fully staffed teacher workforce. The superintendent - Dr. Joel Beyenhof says they still have openings.

"One and a half positions open, an elementary special education position. We're interviewing some candidates right now and then a halftime Spanish position that's currently open," Beyenhof said.

Beyenhof has been an administrator for more than 20 years. He noticed fewer people going into teaching a decade ago but the pool of applicants continues to dwindle.

"Almost 20 years ago as a middle school principal, we'd be searching for applicants maybe for even a common position, social studies or language arts. It wasn't uncommon to have 30-40 applicants. And now kind of fast forward the last handful of years, maybe it'd dwindle down to five," Beyenhof said.

Why is this happening? The Iowa State Education Association President says last year was very difficult for educators and their workloads. Pay hasn't kept up with the rate of inflation and it's taking a toll. It's also harder to recruit teachers in rural places since it's a competitive market.

"When the job market is flushed with applicants, they're a little more inclined to give up some outside of the job priorities. Things they may want from a community outside of their workday. Now employees have an opportunity to shop around for where they want to work and where they want to live," Beyenhof said.

Beyenhof says there are positives to working in a rural district.

"One of the advantages a smaller or rural community brings is oftentimes the school is the hub of the town, the teacher is highly valued and appreciated and supported," Beyenhof said.

What happens if teachers don't fill those open spots?

"That school system will have to seek alternatives whether it be merger, whether it be closure and when that happens that community shrinks," Beyenhof said.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates the country needs more than 300,000 teachers to make up for shortages.

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