Texas House committee hopes to make changes to deal with teacher shortage

A committee of state legislators is trying to find solutions to help school districts dealing with a shortage of teachers.

One solution that seems to be within reach is changing the law so that retired teachers and staff members can return without penalties to their pension. 

Dr. Andrea Chevalier with the Texas Association of Professional Educators explained one of the reasons why so many teachers are leaving the profession. It goes beyond having a full plate. 

"They are just standing there trying to hold that plate together. Unfortunately, that is making them feel broken as a person," she said. "So when they go home to feel reprieve, they can't feel that anymore."

One committee member explained how dire the teacher shortage is in one of his school districts.

"I spoke with principal in my district, and he said their plan is to just not offer biology this year because they can't find a teacher," said State Rep. Gary VanDeaver (R-Boston). "Hopefully, they can hire a teacher next year and double up. We know that is not the best solution." 

The TEA created a teacher vacancy task force last spring to address the exodus and added 24 teachers to the ranks in May.

But the group is not set to release its report until next March while school districts are struggling to make sure classes have teachers next month. 

Many North Texas school districts have been holding job fairs, including Dallas ISD which out of 10,000 positions still needs to fill more than 200 classrooms with teachers. 

Committee members admitted they are running out of time.

One of the most feasible solutions committee members considered is a way to allow retired teachers and other staff members to return to schools. 

But one committee member pointed out that the penalty was added for a reason years ago. 

"The best way to ensure you will repeat a mistake is not to know your history. There were problems with it in the past," said State Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian). "We need to nail down what went wrong."