Teacher Shortage in Arkansas

September 8, 2003 -- Posted at 7:09 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. --Officials say low pay is behind Arkansas' teacher shortage. Thousands of teachers have left the state over the last decade, and not as many have crossed the border into the state to replace them.

According to the latest census data, from 1995 to 2000, roughly 2600 elementary and secondary school teachers left Arkansas for another state. About 1400 teachers moved to Arkansas, for a net loss of 1200.

At Arkansas State University, on the other hand, the College of Education is one of the busiest in the state, according to Department Chair Dr.Veda McClain.

"Enrollment in teacher education at Arkansas State University has continually gone up. We have over 900 students in our program. We graduate more teachers than any other institution in the state," said Dr. McClain

According to the American Federation of Teachers, Arkansas ranks 46th for average teacher salaries. Some state officials believe that's why potential teachers are leaving the state, but Dr. McClain says that's not the case.

"The majority of the students, they tend to stay in Arkansas," said McClain

Thanks to the ASU education program, officials in the Jonesboro school district say they're not at a loss for teachers, but there still is a demand for them.

"The areas where we have to go out and actively recruit is in the areas of content: particularly in the areas of math and science," said Jonesboro Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sue Castleberry.

"Student have perceived math anxiety. Some of them are afraid of science, so they see early childhood as an easy major," said McClain.

"I want to ask them before they make that decision, contact the Jonesboro school district, but particularly the schools in Craighead County. We have tremendous opportunities for young teachers coming into the profession," said Castleberry.

And those opportunities, according to Castleberry, includes a salary increase. This past year the Jonesboro district awarded its teachers with a 7.73 pay raise.