An April report by the Economic Policy Institute helps to quantify the teacher shortage across the U.S., explaining much about Nebraska’s teacher shortage.

We start by looking at the turnover rate of teachers at 13.8% each year. Such a high rate should, by itself, alert the public that something is wrong. The 13.8% turnover rate is made up of 6.5% leaving the school but remaining in the profession and 7.3% leaving the profession altogether.

The 7.3% leaving the profession is most concerning. These teachers all have bachelor’s degrees and about half have master’s or doctoral degrees. Teachers are a dedicated, smart, articulate and hard-working crop of candidates for other professions to poach from.

So, what about the supply of new teachers? Unfortunately, there has been a decrease of 15.4% in the number of awarded education degrees from 2008 to 2016 and a decrease of 37.8% students enrolled in teacher preparation programs over the same period. Suggesting even a greater reduction in new certified teachers in the future.

It is important to understand that replacing an experienced teacher with a new teacher usually involves a several year learning curve for the new teacher. The report is telling us:

— At best, we will have inexperienced teachers in too many schools, particularly in high-poverty schools where turnover is the highest.

— At worst, 9.4% of schools could not fill vacant positions in the 2015-16 school year, resulting in larger class size.

Neither result is acceptable for Nebraska’s children.

Why the teacher shortage? My guess is: lack of respect, unfair standards of performance, low wages, time required outside of school and the stress of being held responsible for so much that is outside their control.

Our federal and state governments have much work to do to turn this around.

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