Evidence Mounts That More Teachers Are Leaving Kansas

Jul 12, 2015

The number of teachers leaving Kansas to work in other states has gone up 63 percent in five years. This billboard is trying to lure teachers to the Independence, Missouri School District.
Credit Julia Szabo / KCUR

On Tuesday, the Kansas State Board of Education will be presented with some disturbing numbers.

In the past five years, the number of teachers leaving Kansas to teach in other states has steadily grown.

The Kansas State Department of Education does a yearly assessment of the teaching profession in Kansas, and this year's report will be discussed when the board meets in Topeka.

According to the report, 399 teachers left Kansas in 2011 to teach in another state. By last year that number ballooned to 654. That's a 63 percent increase.

But there's more concerning news in the report. There has also been a steady increase in the number of teachers in Kansas who simply left the profession. In 2011, the state reported that 491 teachers quit teaching. Last year that number rose to 740, a 72 percent hike.

Teachers in the state have also been retiring in greater numbers. Five years ago, according to the report, 1,260 teachers retired. Last year, the number shot up to 2,326. Educators aren't surprised because lots of baby boomers are retiring and that's not expected to slow down.

But the number of teachers leaving for other states confirms what educators around Kansas have been talking and worrying about for the last couple of years.

The Independence, Missouri School District is particularly aggressive in trying to poach Kansas teachers. The district bought two billboards along busy Kansas highways in an attempt to lure teachers across the state line.

Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards says on his cross-Kansas tour this month educators said they were worried that the lack of a long-term school funding plan and an uncertain budget would drive teachers out of the state. "There is concern about the stability and the long term support for public education in Kansas," Tallman says. "We are hearing all across the state greater concerns about being able to fill positions in school districts."

Independence Superintendent Dr. Dale Herl, a Kansas native, says he's hired a number of teachers from Kansas for the up coming school year. The uncertainty, he says, makes teachers nervous. "Every teacher, every employee, is always looking for stability and anytime you have a situation where budgets are being reduced and, certainly, whenever budgets are reduced the number positions are reduced within a school district," says Herl.

The website kansasteachingjobs.com shows 500 open jobs across the state right now. That's about twice the normal number of openings with just about a month before school starts.

The State Board of Education meeting Tuesday will be the first one for the Dr. Randy Watson who became Education Commission on July 1.