Pushed Into a Corner, Teachers in Red States Fight Back

Written By: Brian Preece

It is important for critics of public educators to realize just how desperate things are for public school teachers in America.  Consider that teachers have NEVER walked out or went on strike in Arizona.  Again, the key word is NEVER.  In Utah, there was a statewide walkout in 1989.  We have plenty of teachers teaching in our Utah schools born way after that date. I’m sure it was rare, if it happened at all, in states like Kentucky, Oklahoma or West Virginia.

Many in the general public often see public educators as a monolithic voting bloc, and that being liberal or Democratic. But I would bet that in these states where teachers have fought back by walking out and/or making marches on their state capitols, that a good fair share are actually conservative Republicans. Even in Utah, a good share of our teachers find themselves very right of center on the political spectrum.

But there does become a tipping point.  The GOP has been firmly in control of the state houses and gubernatorial mansions of these states (and certainly here in Utah) for quite a while. The crises in education these states find themselves in is primarily the result of cutting taxes combined with many austerity measures.  Teachers, by and large, just want to do their jobs.  They are not political creatures. In fact, it is really difficult for teachers to be all that political, the demands of the day job are just that–demanding.  Add in job two or three, plus family, church and other civic commitments, teachers don’t have a lot of spare time.

And sorry education critics, this isn’t about union politics or union anything.  Most of these states where teachers are marching and striking don’t have strong unions and are right-to-work states.  In the Utah the “U” in UEA doesn’t stand for Union.  It is the Utah Educators ASSOCIATION.

In a nutshell, things have got so bad in these states for so long where earnings have decreased and benefits slashed while the demands placed on teachers have hit new levels of absurdity, that teachers have had enough.

My father had a saying, “that many people can’t be wrong.” The photos of tens of thousands of teachers marching on the Arizona Capitol and filling the streets in a sea of red speaks for itself.  It isn’t just one district or just a vocal minority of teachers making some noise and getting on TV.  It is a movement, not by teachers wishing to be political, but by teachers pushed to their brink.  These teachers are like a wounded animal that finds itself cornered. And there is no choice, as they see it, to fight back and take a stand.

The problems and issues facing teachers in Arizona aren’t too much different than say what teachers face in Utah.  Some could even argue that the issues of say underfunding and class size in Utah is even worse than our neighbor to the south or has gone on for a much longer time.  And the Our Schools Now movement was one way teachers, and their supporters, were fighting back against the GOP-controlled legislature in Utah.

In my view, the one thing that has prevented Utah from going Arizona has been our governor first and foremost.  Yes,  Gary Herbert is a conservative through and through, but one that truly values public education and the public educator.  I think most Utah teachers recognize this.  And the relationship between teachers and the legislature here in Utah isn’t quite as toxic.  And while I support the REDforED movement in Arizona, I would rather not go there in Utah.  Strikes and walkouts aren’t fun for anyone. Finally, that’s where I see a group like the Utah Teachers Fellows (as sponsored by NNSTOY and Hope Street Group) as a valuable organization that can push for positive changes for teachers and public education before Utah teachers feel completely backed into that metaphorical corner.

 

It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Debbie Morgan Edition

Debbie is a rockstar. In the state of Utah, she basically lives in the middle of nowhere, and is crushing it in her career. She was recently awarded the 2018 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Foundation Teacher of the Year Award, selected as a semi-finalist for the NSTA Shell Science Teaching Award, and and a Utah finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. And that was all in last 6 months.

How is she having so much success in her rural setting? Follow her journey on Twitter @DebbieSciTech and read on to learn more about her career:

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Where did you do your teacher prep? Utah State University

Where have you taught in your teaching career? Centerville Junior High in Davis School District, North Sevier Middle and South Sevier High in Sevier School District.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? I once asked a student to put plastic wrap on the plants so they wouldn’t dry out over the weekend. Exasperated, Monday morning, that no plastic wrap had been applied, I looked to the back wall and noticed that each planet has a layer of plastic wrap. It was awesome! I learned how important it is to communicate expectations clearly. Students often do exactly what they think we tell them.

What advice would you give to new teachers? Always be prepared and plan ahead, but never forget to be flexible.

What is your favorite teacher resource? There are so many! I love PhET simulations for my science classes. They offer a great alternative when you can’t afford the supplies or need another way to reinforce concepts that is more hands-on.

Describe any experience you have had in education policy. The Utah Teachers Fellowship has given me an electrifying jumpstart into sharing my teacher voice with policy makers in Utah. By participating in the Educator’s Day on the Hill, meeting and interacting with legislators through email and Twitter, and presenting to my local education agencies, I’ve found that I have the ability to impact positive change in our public schools!

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? More funding to the people that matter most: the students! By ensuring education in Utah is adequately funded in ways that are effective and meaningful, we ensure a bright future for our students. This definitely entails changes to teacher pay and incorporation of more teacher leadership opportunities. I want to lead, but I don’t want to leave the classroom. I shouldn’t have to leave the classroom to become an administrator for a pay raise either.

Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? I chose to become an educator and stay in the profession because I believe in the power of education to lift people, communities, and societies up out of poverty, prejudice, lack of empathy. I believe education gives us the tools to reach our full potential.

 

 

It’s Thursday- Thank a Teacher: Michele Jones Edition

At the recent Utah Teacher Fellows face to face convening, Michele Jones presented an incredible ignite session. She shared her passion for advocacy, her love of education, and her commitment to students. It is a privilege to feature her on this week’s Thank a Teacher.

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Where did you do your teacher prep? At the University of Utah

Where have you taught in your teaching career? In my career I have taught at Brockbank Junior High, and currently Cyprus High School.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? If you READ the instructions, the problem actually makes sense!!! (actual epiphany, not sarcastic.)

What advice would you give to new teachers? Find the great teachers close to you and make friends with them. They will support and uplift you and your teaching practice.

What is your favorite teacher resource? Other teachers.

Describe any experience you have had in education policy. I have helped create district curriculum maps and curriculum, I have given input as a member of focus groups and panels, I have helped write legislation at the state level.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I would like teachers be treated like highly trained experts in their field (as professionals). This is a twofold change, both entry into the profession (though I understand why it is in place, there should not be “alternative routes” to being a licensed teacher) and how teachers are payed and treated.

Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? Because I have a chance to impact the life of every student that walks into my room. As a math teacher I can open the gates of opportunity for all of my students, inspire them to be more than they are today and help bring thoughtfulness and kindness into our society.

Anything else we should know? Teaching is the best!!!

Michele is so involved in Utah education and you can learn from her experiences by following her on Twitter @4micheleJones

“Voices of Reason” Brings Forth a Productive Dialog on Guns and School Safety

Written by: Brian Preece

Over the past two weeks I’ve participated in two podcasts that I found both intellectually rewarding and hopeful.

Jasen Lee and Amy Donaldson host a podcast program called Voices of Reason (VOR) through KSL. I have known Amy for several years, as we are fellow sportswriters.  I’m merely freelance and Amy works for the Deseret News (and I consider her the best sportswriter in Utah). But Amy’s interests and influence in the media go beyond sports and VOR is the effort to bring civil dialog on a number of political topics.  I had never met Jasen until I participated as a guest on a podcast on March 14, but a new friendship was created. A link to the actual podcast I participated in can be found HERE

March 14 was a significant day because it was the month anniversary of the tragic shooting in Parkland, FL. And it was also the date of many student walk-outs across the nation including Utah. At Provo High School, where I teach, approximately 200 students participated in the walkout.  At West High where I started my teaching career, nearly all the students walked out. But a clear message has been sent with this walkout and the rallies last week, our young people won’t accept the status quo.

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In the March 14 podcast I was one of two guests. The other guest was Mikkel Roe, a former West Valley police officer and gun rights advocate. All four of us participated in the discussion. Jasen (and Amy) would fire questions at Mikkel and myself, but also added their own commentary.  What took place was an engaging 30-minute conversation on guns and our schools.  I also made two more friends. Though Mikkel is a gun advocate where I am not per se, though I support the second amendment concept, we did find some important common ground.

On arming teachers, I said I was not dead set against it if the teachers were specifically recruited for the purpose because they possessed a specific mindset. I also wanted those teachers willing to do this to have advanced training, not the sort of cursory training or courses that one gets to receive a concealed weapons permit.  I also volunteered the information that I would not want to pack a gun saying, “I’m a teacher not a gunfighter.” Mikkel readily agreed that arming teachers as possible first responders to engage a school shooter should require advanced training and specific recruiting by administrators perhaps working with law enforcement for the type of individuals that might be best suited for this responsibility.  Amy pointed out correctly the concerns that when the police do arrive on the scene, will they be able to identify the shooter(s) vs. others who might have weapons?

Mikkel also brought up the idea that perhaps high schools (and perhaps other schools) could be the host sites of police substations.  One often sees substations in urban settings most often at malls or at grocery stores. These substations allow police officers a place often to paperwork rather than returning all the way to the main station.  They also give a police presence to these malls and shopping centers and often times are strategically placed in neighborhoods with higher crime rates. But maybe putting these substations at schools would put law enforcement physically closer and bring some comfort to students and parents alike knowing that law enforcement would be within seconds of a possible shooting versus several minutes.  We also must consider that most of the deaths in school shootings happen in the first few minutes and police response time is usually not in time to prevent the carnage.

There were further discussions on doing drills in our schools and just how that might psychologically effect our children.  Can there be too many drills?  And is this the world we want our children to live (and be educated) in? Mikkel and I agreed that more drills are needed. I suggested that maybe two drills per semester is the right amount.

In regards to securing schools Amy, Jasen and I agreed that it is “too easy” for people to get into our schools.  Even with ID badges, doors are often propped open by students and students in our high schools are often all over the place rather than in class.  I asked whether parents are willing to have stricter attendance policies because in some sense, lenient attendance policies make it harder to secure schools.

We also touched on issues of bullying and mental health. I said schools are actually doing quite a bit on bullying though with social media bullying has taken a new form.  We all seemed to agree that more funding and effort is needed in this area while Amy sincerely worried about there is too much stigmatizing of the mentally ill.  She also pointed in regards to bullying and so forth that students sometimes don’t come forward because they feel adults don’t listen or there won’t be any consequences to the perpetrators.  We want more secure schools but the funding to take care of basic needs of public schools is hard to find. Then there has to be the bigger effort in our society to fund the programs to help the mentally ill.

I support the fundamental concept of the right to keep and bear arms, but I also think the government has the legal right to regulate what arms are made available and the age in which firearms are made available. The government, in my view, should have criminal consequences on those who educate those to alter their weapons to an illegal status, and restrict those under treatment for certain mental illness from having access to firearms.

I also believe that for the most part, school shootings will be a unique American problem. Though other countries have mentally ill individuals, violent media (video games, movies etc.), the breakdown of the family unit, and other societal issues many associate as contributors to these tragedies, these countries just don’t have the number of guns available to their citizens as we do in the United States.  We all generally agreed that the mathematics simply say that in several months we’ll have another mass shooting.

Amy and I did agree on one political point; the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) influence on American politics is too great.  She brought up the fact that Congress, pressured by the NRA, passed legislation to limit how the Center for Disease Control (CDC) collects data on gun violence. We both see it as simply wrong-headed and even morally corrupt. We both believe that the CDC must have the full power and funding to truly study the impact of gun violence in American society.

Jasen and Amy then did a two-hour broadcast in front of a live audience on Thursday March 29. In the two podcasts, Jasen and Amy brought in a student from West High School, a teacher from Rowland Hall High School, Utah Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, and a high school administrator who once taught at a school that had a school shooting incident.

As the discussion in the second podcast circled around gun rights, a question was asked whether 18 year-olds, many of which might be seniors in high school, should be allowed to carry guns if they had a concealed weapons permit.  Hughes talked about the nebulous legal area of “adulthood” but suggested that might be alright with him. Rivera even remarked that it might be alright if the student was shown to be mentally stable.  I’m not sure how I feel about the concept of some of the seniors I teach “packing.”

But I thought the most poignant points were made by the student from West High School.  She said school shootings are on the minds of students. In the light of recent events she says it is not only a topic of discussion but also something that she and her friends worry about. She often looks in the classroom for what places she could hide if a shooter did come on campus. As I said in the podcast I participated in directly, it is crucially important to listen to our young people and not dismiss their views because we disagree with their politics on the matter.

In the end, what I learned is that people from divergent positions do want our children to be safe. Passion was present in the conversation, but the respect and the willingness to listen and seek common ground shown in these podcasts was very hopeful.  I was honored to be asked to participate in this process and I commend Amy and Jasen for their efforts, not just in this specific matter, but just to be as their show’s title suggests, a voice of reason in the realm of political discussion.

 

Brian E. Preece is a 28-year teaching veteran starting his career at West High School in Salt Lake City and relocating to Provo High School. He has taught a wide array of subjects in Social Studies. He served as the head wrestling coach at Provo High School from 1994 to 2006 and was named the Utah Coach of the Year in 2006 by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

It’s Thursday-Thank a Teacher: Brian Preece Edition

I am pumped to talk about Coach Brian Preece, on this week’s Thank a Teacher post. You may have seen his name before, as he is a featured correspondent sports writer for the Daily Herald. He was also a Utah wrestling Coach of the Year. But, we aren’t here to talk about sports! Brian has also written several articles on education, such as this great post about the amazing things happening at Provo High school.

A little background on Coach Preece–

“My father and sister are very successful coaches. My father won nine state titles in 12 years in wrestling and a state title in golf and cross-country, while my sister has won five state titles in volleyball. My grandfather supported public education though he only had an 8th grade education as he served on his local school board and stressed the importance of education to his children. My uncle (his son) taught for 37 years while my Aunt taught for over 30 years herself. My mother (his daughter) was an elementary P.E. specialist for several years and they instilled in me the importance in education and inspired me to go into teaching and coaching.”

Clearly, teaching and coaching is in Brian’s blood! He has been teaching a long time and I am excited to learn from him.

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Where did you do your teacher prep? BYU (B.A.) and SUU (M.Ed)

Where have you taught in your teaching career? West HS (1989-1994), Provo HS (1994-present)

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? A wrestler I coached told me that “he got ringworm from his girlfriend.”

What advice would you give to new teachers? Treat your main office secretary, your head custodian and your tech guru like gold. You can never thank them enough. They are the three most important people in your school in regards to making it run.

Describe any experience you have had in education policy. My time with the Utah Fellows (Hope Street Group) but I’ve had impacts on smaller things within my school as members of various committees.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? The pay and benefits (especially health) need to get better.

Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? To be truthful I wanted to make an impact through coaching–and teaching was the avenue to do that. As time goes by, coaching has taken a back seat to the impact I’m making in the classroom. But like most teachers, we get into it to make a difference with young people, because we enjoy being around them.

Brian shares his sports writing and other adventures in education on his Twitter account. Follow him at @coachbpreece

Driven 2 Teach: Civil War to Civil Rights

Written by: Marrianne Asay

When I was a teenager, I found a copy of an address given at my Wood Family Reunion among some of my grandmother’s old family bibles and pictures.  In the address, the story is told about the role the Quaker family played in helping with the Underground Railroad in Ohio. The more I research my Wood family ancestry, the more I feel inspired by them. Several sons fought for the North, their feelings against slavery stronger than their religious tenants against violence. Esther, the mother of the family, was a suffragette, fighting for women’s rights.  My pride for my ancestors is conveyed to my students as I share their stories of courage and integrity in connection with the historical events they were a part of.

I have also learned about other ancestors, the Cooper family,  an old colonist family, who moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina in the early days of the new colony.  They owned a farm in Union County, South Carolina; a farm run by slaves. Their sons fought on the side of the Confederacy.  When their slaves were freed at the end of the Civil War, most of them chose to stay with the Cooper family. The pride I feel from family that assisted in freeing slaves and working to promote women’s rights, was somewhat dampened by the feelings that came when I found out about my slave-holding ancestry.  This summer I have the opportunity to learn a little more about this branch in my family tree and their role in history. I hope to not only learn about the historical events these families lived through, but also the feeling, culture, and societal issues that have grown out of the Civil War through a program called Driven 2 Teach, (http://www.driven2teach.org/field-studies/) sponsored by the Larry H. Miller organization and Zion’s bank.

This year, Driven 2 Teach is providing three field studies to over 60 public school, 5-12 grade teachers in the state of Utah.  Each field study is focused on helping teachers learn about a segment of US history in a hands-on, personal way. I was selected to participate in this year’s Civil War to Civil Rights field study.  We will study the Civil War, while standing inside Fort Sumter. We will learn about slavery, as we sit in a slave cabin. We will learn about the bus boycott while sitting the bus Rosa Parks sat on, listening to people that knew her, sharing their experiences.  A visit to the Center for Civil and Human rights will give us an opportunity to learn and discuss Civil Rights throughout history, and throughout the world. We will be able to attend a church that was pivotal during the Civil Rights movement, and walk the roads of Selma, Alabama, one of the battlegrounds in the fight for Civil Rights.  

Participating teachers in the program will have a fair bit of work to do to prepare, so that as they visit each site and learn about history where it was made, they have a base knowledge and foundation to work from.  The stack of books and the list of assignments feels a little overwhelming, but at the same time, it feels like a small price to pay for the privilege to participate. Driven 2 Teach offers 6 credit hours, and from the stack of books and list of homework assignments I brought home from the kick off meeting, I will earn those 6 credits.  The main goal of the trip is for teachers to take what they learn and experience, back to their classrooms to improve their students’ learning. The directors of the program want teacher leaders that will take what they learn and share it with other teachers at their schools and districts. I’m excited for the opportunity to dive into history, as well as the current issues, sentiments, and problems that we face because of history, both individually, collectively, and socially.  Thank you to the Larry H. Miller organization and Zion’s bank for caring enough about teachers and students to provide this amazing opportunity!

Marrianne Asay has the heart of a teacher and loves being in the classroom. She is a 5th grade teacher at Highland Elementary School in Alpine School District. She is a Utah Teacher Fellow and is enjoying the opportunity to promote teacher voice and teacher leadership.  She is the mother of 3 adventurous children and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband.

It’s Thursday-Thank a Teacher: Wendy Rush Edition

My favorite day of the week is now Thursdays! I look forward to spotlighting a new Utah teacher every week and learning about the amazing things they do inside and outside their classrooms. This week we are featuring Wendy Rush, who works as an Instructional Coach at a virtual school. I am excited to learn more about her.

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Where did you do your teacher prep? Brigham Young University

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I have taught at Mapleton Elementary School. I worked several years as Mentor for BYU Summer Practicum, and I currently work at Utah Virtual Academy.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? “I know what you’re going to say, and let me be clear, I am never going to have a “growth mindset.”

What advice would you give to new teachers? Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!!!

What is your favorite teacher resource? I love Digital Readworks!

Describe any experience you have had in education policy. Working with Hope Street Group to lead teacher focus groups, collect and compile data, develop and host #Utedchats, and attend my first Educators day on the Hill.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I want to see teachers being paid a living wage. No teacher should have to work 2 jobs and one in the summer to make ends meet.

Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? I am energized by good teaching. I look at it as an art form, and I take pride in excellence in my educational practices.

Anything else we should know? My favorite students are the most challenging students! The more difficult they are to reach, the greater the pay-off when you get through!

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Wendy! Thanks for being an amazing Utah educator. Follow her teacher leadership journey on Twitter @WendyRush16

Appreciation

Written by Kristin van Brunt

I was brought up to believe that we shouldn’t do things simply to be recognized or appreciated…that our actions should be independent of any acknowledgement we may or may not receive. Although I still believe that recognition should not be the impetus for our actions, I have found that appreciation has incredible power to affect people in a positive way.

Recently, the transformative power of appreciation hit home for me when I had a visit from the superintendent of Davis School District. He came to my school on a teacher work day specifically to visit me. A few months ago, I published an article about the importance of relationships in education. I am not sure how he came across the article, but he did. He read it and came by my school to thank me. This is an incredibly busy man. He is responsible for a district of almost 70,000 students, 2,500 educators,
and more than 80 schools. He didn’t have to visit. He didn’t have to acknowledge me or my article at all. But he did. He chose to take the time to come to my school to thank me for my perspective and what I do for kids. It was a short visit, but it meant the world to me. I felt appreciated. I felt like what I did mattered. That recognition energized me to jump into a new semester with a positive outlook.

After this brief meeting, I realized how much that act of appreciation mattered, and I determined to pass along that recognition to others. Mary Kay Ash stated: “Everyone wants to be appreciated. So if you appreciate someone, don’t keep it a secret.”  I’ve decided to take that advice to heart. Each week, I plan to let a minimum of two people know how much I appreciate them and what they do. This could be teaching colleagues, students, administrators, family, or friends. I am hopeful that this small action will
encourage others the way the superintendent’s visit encouraged me.

Kristin is an English Teacher at Viewmont High School in Bountiful, Utah. Follow her on Twitter at @vb_kristin

IT’S THURSDAY-THANK A TEACHER: Lynette Yorgason EDITION

Lynette is an incredible teacher and a passionate advocate for her students. She wrote a powerful article on teaching tolerance and empathy to her high school students, that has gone viral! You can read her story, Utah’s New Standards – Now Featuring Empathy her story, on Sevenzo. The Utah Teacher Fellows are privileged to have Ms. Yorgason as a part of the inaugural cohort. Here is a little more about Lynette:

Where did you do your teacher prep? I completed my teacher prep at BYU-Provo.

Where have you taught in your teaching career? I was a substitute for Weber District, I taught at Mount Vernon Academy, and I am currently at Itineris Early College High School.

What is the funniest thing a student has ever said? “Fine! You buzzkills! I just wanted to worship our lord and savior Pingu!

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* For those of you not familiar with Pingu, it’s a show about a penguin.

What advice would you give to new teachers? Write down the positive! It’s easy to get bogged down in the negative and hard. Be reflective enough to improve, but not so much that you are paralyzed by all the things you need to be better at. Be honest with your students about what you don’t know and your failings. Respect your students like human beings instead of treating them as “kids” and they will respect you back.

What is your favorite teacher resource? Stanford History Education Group

Describe any experience you have had in education policy. Directly after getting my Masters in ESL, I went to an advocacy conference in Washington D.C. and I was terrified. And while I still have a lot to learn, I quickly realized that I really was the expert in the room. After getting over the initial excitement/terror of being in the Senate or House offices, I sat down with staff and gave them information they didn’t have before and was able to give them insight and experience that they weren’t aware of. It was so empowering. It’s hard sometimes to think of myself as a professional, teaching feels like it’s a mix between just being a big student and being a caregiver for students. But when I was in those offices I came to understand that I am a professional with knowledge that these people really needed in order to do their jobs effectively.

What’s the biggest change you would like to see in education? I want to see more empathy, I want to see students being taught how to talk to people who are different than them and how to understand, resolve, or live with their differences.

Why did you choose to become an educator and why do you choose to stay in the profession? I don’t remember choosing to be an educator, but once I got into the classroom and started to understand my students lives and needs I knew I didn’t want to leave. I stay because of my students. I want them to succeed, I want them to be advocated for, I want them to believe in themselves.

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Isn’t she awesome?! Follow her on Twitter @LynetteYorgason Thanks for all you do!

 

Senate Bill 95 is a Great Idea to Help Combat the Teacher Shortage/A Win-Win for Everyone

Utah is facing a teacher shortage.  Recent media stories and research has indicated that more than half of new teaching hires will leave the profession within five years. It is anticipated here that this will not drastically change in the not-so-distant future. Some positive things are afoot in regards to teacher compensation, but even with that said, the demands on teachers remain so large and destructive, that it is anticipated that the teacher shortage and turnover will remain at a critical level for years to come.

One legislative solution looks to remedy the situation by turning to recent retirees. There was a time that those that retired could actually reenter right back into the profession and even work to obtain a second pension while being paid their original pension they earned through their long and dedicated service. However, that changed a few years back when new legislation required teachers to sit out one complete calendar year. They could then land a teaching position, but they would not be able to work toward an additional pension. Also, it wasn’t that retired teachers had to wait to go back into teaching, they could not work at any other state position whether it be at a golf course, doing mosquito abatement, or as a driver education instructor within the state or school system. As novice teachers decided staying in the profession wasn’t worth it, the pool of retired teachers as potential hires also dried up a bit. Certainly, some waited that calendar year and then jumped back into what was the new version of “double dipping.” But a calendar year can be a long time, and then taking away any other possibility for state job employment on top of that, only aggravated the frustration many retirees felt.

Senate Bill 95 has bipartisan support.  Its senate sponsor is Democrat Jani Iwamoto, while in the House Republican Steve Eliason is listed as the sponsor. This fact is encouraging. The bill also has the blessing of the Utah Retirement System (URS). What the bill basically does is reduce the waiting period from one calendar year to 60 days.  It would require prospective employers (districts) to pay what amounts to an actuarial settlement to the URS.  As the bill goes forward it will go understandable tweaking with what this percentage will be, and it won’t be an exact amount anyhow as it will vary for each retired teacher that is rehired. However, it is hoped that this bill does get passed.  It is seen here as a huge win-win-win for districts, teachers, and most importantly, the students.

Veteran teachers have plenty to offer students and schools.  And while they will make more money than a first-year teacher out of university, they won’t be making the same salary as they were when they retired. And under current rules, they would not be earning a second pension. The districts would be paying the tab so no additional monies would be coming out of the WPU (Weighted-Pupil Unit). The actuarial settlement is there to help lessen, or even eliminate entirely, any impact on the URS, though it is not sure here what the impact would be in the first place.  However, trust for the URS, when its experts say some settlement is indeed needed, generally exists by the critical stakeholders. It is seen as positive that the settlement in the bill’s current form is taken on by the prospective employer (vs. the prospective employee), but this could change as the bill goes through its final permeations.  Even if that did change to the prospective employee entirely, or shared between the two parties, the bill would still deserve support.

Allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom in a much easier way also sends a message that retired teachers are valued. They should be put on a higher list of desired potential hires than alternative licensure applicants and this bill sends that clear message. The vast, vast majority of retirees have put in 30 (or more) teaching years, and this successful experience should be valued. And sitting out (just) 60 days would be a significant, positive step and makes the potential pool of retiree applicants deeper and more immediate. Often times, those who have been forced to wait this calendar year have moved on to other line of work or even have left the state altogether to find teaching positions. This would allow districts to strike while the “iron is hot” so to speak to hire these recently retired teachers who will help address the teaching shortage. Most importantly these retired teachers coming back will bring incredible assets to the schools that hire them.  Any bill that makes this easier for retired teachers to come back and for districts to look to this source to solve the teacher-shortage concernes deserves support from the larger teaching community.