Report: 1,175 teachers are lost a year

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Without the Legislature's help, Utah faces a severe teacher shortage in coming years.

Educators on Wednesday asked lawmakers to pay for several programs to recruit, retain and train Utah teachers.

In their annual report, members of the state Board of Education and state Board of Regents said Utah is losing 1,175 teachers a year. A projected increase in the number of students combined with that attrition rate means the state will have to fill about 80,000 teacher vacancies during the next 20 years.

Separate research conducted by the state Office of Education estimates student enrollment will balloon from 495,682 in 2004 to 652,662 in 2015, the final year of the projections.

A task force is studying the issue and will report its findings by October, Ray Timothy, a state associate superintendent, told members of the Legislature's Education Interim Committee.

Although educators say the teacher shortfall is manageable now, "steps must be taken at all levels" to address the situation, according to the annual report.

Translation: Teachers need more money.

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, called it "a scandal" that beginning teachers make only about $23,000. "That alone will push young teachers out quickly."

Educators want legislators to make up for low teacher salaries by maintaining undergraduate loan, licensing and mentoring programs and providing bonus pay for professional development. Specifically:

* They want the state to release $650,000 the 2005 Legislature provided for the Terrel H. Bell Teaching Loan Forgiveness Program. The program pays tuition for students who want to be teachers, forgiving one year of the loan for every year students teach.

Phyllis "Teddi" Safman of the Higher Education Commissioners Office told committee members her office has not yet received the money. She also would like to see funding for the program increased.

* Educators said a federal grant worth $500,000 that helps teachers bear licensing costs is scheduled to end in 2007. They want lawmakers to fund the program after the grant expires or raise the program's fees.

* Schools are required to provide a well-defined program of evaluation and mentoring for beginning teachers, yet no funding is provided for such programs, educators said. They want money set aside for what they consider to be an unfunded mandate.

* Finally, legislators should provide a salary bonus for instructors who become National Board Certified Teachers, educators said. Research shows those who are certified are more effective at raising student achievement.