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TFA can help Idaho teacher shortage

Idaho is in the grips of a teacher shortage. As a result, no one suffers more than Idaho children.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education listed 44 disciplines where a teacher shortage was documented in the state of Idaho. And the number is growing, especially in hard-to-fill categories such as agricultural science and technology, basic mathematics, chemistry, early childhood/early childhood special education, economics, geography, physics and health.

As former superintendent of Caldwell School District I know how difficult it is to attract and retain high-quality teachers, especially when neighboring school districts can promise $5,000-$15,000 salary increases.

One solution to this ever-widening problem is Teach For America.

Teach for America attracts the best and brightest young professionals from across the nation — mostly recent college graduates from all academic majors and backgrounds who have demonstrated outstanding achievement, perseverance and leadership to teach in low income urban and rural areas.

The program has been positively impacting schools for a quarter century and is one of the most studied teacher preparation programs in the nation.

There are numerous TFA corps members who are either from Idaho or want to teach in our great state. More than 100 TFA corps members and alumni identify Idaho as their home state. In fact, an outstanding TFA alumni is teaching in the Caldwell School District. Last year, 180 TFA applicants were graduates from Idaho colleges and universities and more than 170 successful TFA candidates from across the U.S. listed Idaho as their preferred state in which to teach.

We believe qualified teaching candidates from TFA can help fill the void and be an invaluable asset for students, schools and communities. But the decision about whether or not to let TFA candidates compete with other teaching candidates for hard-to-fill jobs in rural and low income schools is totally up to school districts and school boards.

Hiring a TFA candidate is a choice, not a mandate. Should a TFA candidate be hired, they are compensated by the state in the exact same salary schedule as every other teacher in the district. In addition, if a TFA teacher chooses to do so, they may join the respective teaching union in that district and, according to TFA, many do.

The J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation is proud to have helped bring TFA to Idaho. We hope that the infusion of these qualified candidates will help shrink the growing teacher shortage especially in Idaho’s rural spaces. TFA is focused on what is best for children. And what is best for children in Idaho, is best for all of us.