Recent yearly trends are showing that Idaho is currently suffering from a teacher shortage that is most heavily impacting rural school districts, according to a report from the Idaho Board of Education. The report shows that Idaho loses 10% of its teachers every year.
The same study indicated that 15% of first-year teachers will not return for a second year, and 30% of teachers who get certified to teach in Idaho look for jobs in other states in an attempt to find more appealing benefits.
Idaho legislators are recognizing the statewide teacher shortage with House Bill 221, originally introduced as House Bill 218 in 2019 and also known as the Rural Idaho Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act. In its declaration of purpose, House Bill 221 “recognizes the need to ensure that each classroom has a qualified, well-trained educator to ensure that Idaho public schools meet the needs of all students.” The bill outlines a rural teacher incentive program aimed to develop a “pipeline for consistent recruitment and placement of educators and public schools across the state.”
This program includes a fellowship for teacher candidates who are within 40 credits of completing an approved teacher preparation program.
Also included in the program is an offer of employment for teaching program participants where the applicant must commit to work in the same rural school district for three academic years after completing the program.
Through this bill, school districts have the ability to create local teaching certificates where the recipients would be placed in a district that needs teachers.
When the bill was placed before the House of Education Committee, a teachers union called The Idaho Education Association, said that the bill effectively lowered the bar that teachers need to pass to be in the classroom.
Retired teachers voiced their concerns at the committee meeting by complaining that HB 221 allowed the state to incentivize teaching jobs without the training and dedication that traditional teaching certificates require.
For students who are involved in education programs, this could be an interesting incentive if passed. Alex Vasquez, a junior dual majoring in special and elementary education, would rather finish his certification traditionally.
“Even though I might save money and time by opting into the fellowship, I feel that the experience that I would get through student teaching will be critical to my development as a teacher,” Vasquez said.
Interim Dean of Boise State’s College of Education Jennifer Snow thinks that the bill could make an impact on struggling school districts.
“I think it is positive for rural school districts to partner with teacher education programs so that all students in Idaho have access to high-quality teachers and all teachers in the state have valuable access to cutting-edge research and pedagogy in the profession of teaching,” Snow said.
Snow is currently seeing the highest enrollments in the last decade through the College of Education. According to the assessment director of the College of Education, enrollment rates have increased roughly 60% between 380 students in 2015 to a projected 631 in 2021.
This increase in interest gives hope to rural Idaho school districts that are struggling to hire certified teachers.
“I would love to partner with rural areas for student teachers at the end of their programs. We have already done that in Mountain Home, McCall-Donnelly and other rural areas,” Snow said. “If one of our student teachers is hired during student teaching, we support them in their clinical experience so they have the mentoring and support necessary.”
House Bill 218 was passed through the education committee on a 12-3 vote. On March 18, the Senate Education Committee voted to hold the bill, meaning the bill has been killed for this session.