CHRIS MOORE — A teacher shortage solution is simple and already in place

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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My dad worked at DuPont in Orange for many years. After a short stint in college, he went to the company, which paid him while they trained him.

After six weeks, I believe, my dad was making a good wage and worked there for several decades, helping provide for the family.

He didn’t have a college degree, and yet the experience gained was enough to effectively do the job.

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Unfortunately, those jobs and opportunities are few and far between. It is nearly impossible for someone in my dad’s position at that time to find an opportunity like that today to make the money he did. Mainly in America, we have moved away from apprenticeships to a college degree-based program.

It used to be commonplace for a person to learn a skill under a mentor and then take over once that person deemed them worthy.

Right now, the country is facing a teacher shortage. School districts are having a hard time finding new teachers and retaining experienced ones. Those districts are trying to do everything they can to make the job more enticing.

Most local districts offer bonuses to returning teachers and have stepped up pay with experience.

But the solution might already be in the classrooms. Along with teachers, schools are finding it difficult to find and keep paraprofessionals. That job pays significantly less than a teacher.

In this area, it is common for a paraprofessional to take home approximately $12,000 a year. They usually assist in the lower grades where they help the teacher with lessons and keep the room running smoothly.

In a time where there is also a shortage of substitute teachers, paraprofessionals can often find themselves being the lone teacher in the room when the lead teacher is out sick or dealing with other obligations.

Usually, paraprofessionals are people who enjoy teaching but do not have a four-year degree for any number of reasons. A four-year degree is required to be a teacher in the state.

It doesn’t seem to make sense that a paraprofessional, who has worked in a classroom alongside a teacher for more than a decade, would be less qualified to be a teacher than a 22-year-old fresh out of college. That is not a knock on the young teachers.

If the Texas Education Agency made a way for paraprofessionals to become certified and meet the experience requirements, it would solve many of the woes facing public education in the state.

If the TEA required a paraprofessional hold that position for six years before becoming eligible to a certified teacher, more people would apply to be paraprofessionals to help ease the burden of student loans. The state would automatically have an influx in qualified teachers in local systems who would also be able to improve their own financial status.

The government is often criticized for overcomplicating issues. If the teacher shortage is not solved, the ramifications on public education will be felt for generations. It would be a grave misstep if we did not look at every option, especially one that is so simple.

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at