School superintendents see drop in applicants
Jean Rush wonders where the teacher applicants have gone.
Rush, superintendent of McLouth Unified School District 342, is among area superintendents who have seen a reduction in the number of applicants for teaching positions.
"Three years ago, it was not uncommon to have 40 to 50 elementary applications, or 10 to 12 applications for high school positions," Rush said. "But now we're looking for a high school math teacher and I have two applications, and a music teacher and I have two applications. It doesn't give you a lot of choice."
Rush has participated in recent career days at Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, hoping to increase the number of people who would like to work in her Jefferson County school district.
This week, she said, she would attend a Northwest Missouri State career day in St. Joseph.
She attributes the problem to better opportunities in other professions.
"It's difficult for us to stay in competition with private industries," Rush said. "I can go for a job in the business industry that's going to pay twice what I'm going to make as a teacher, and it would have the potential to earn more."
In McLouth, Rush said, the starting salary for a new graduate is a little more than $25,000, plus fringe benefits such as lower health insurance premiums.
The district is limited as to how much it can pay for salaries, which make up the bulk of expenses. Rush wishes more funds were available.
"Last year the teachers received a 1.9 percent increase," Rush said. "They're not even getting an increase in the cost of living, and their insurance skyrocketed."
Cal Cormack, superintendent of the Basehor-Linwood district, said the number of applicants seems to be in line with previous years.
"However, we have now been involved in several college recruiting days on various campuses, and the number of applicants there seems to be down," Cormack said.
To make the district more attractive to applicants, as well as existing employees, Basehor-Linwood, has this month added a paid single health insurance policy, Cormack said.
Moreover, in the last two years, employees were given an average 4 percent increase.
It's not enough, he said, because large corporations will readily offer more.
"They can come in and offer $45,000 to $50,000," Cormack said. "It's a no-brainer for young people who have run up $20,000 in student loans."
At Tonganoxie's school district, Superintendent Richard Erickson said he's observed the declining trend in the number of teacher applications.
"We haven't really gotten into our busy time of year as far as recruiting teachers," Erickson said. "But I expect the applications to be down."
However, Erickson said, even though the quantity of applications has dropped, the quality of the applicants remains high.
"In the small pool that we have, we've had some outstanding candidates," Erickson said. "The size of the pool is not an indication of the talent."
The starting teacher's salary in Tonganoxie for a new college graduate is presently $25,500, plus benefits, and will increase to $26,250, plus benefits, for the 2001-2002 school year.
In the last several years, salary increases have not kept pace with the cost of living, Erickson said.
"We've ranged anywhere from 3 percent to a little over 4 percent in the last two to three years," Erickson said. "We're not keeping up with the cost of inflation. I think teachers deserve a much higher salary than what we're paying them."