Summit held for Virginia teacher shortage crisis

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Government officials and leaders in education came together on Tuesday to discuss the teacher shortage Virginia public schools are facing.

The summit was held at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and featured panels and presentations on how to solve this crisis.

According to policymakers, Virginia K-12 education is in trouble.

“For years, we’ve been seeing this brewing," said Stewart Roberson, Chair of the UVA K12 Advisory Council. "We know that on the horizon there appears to be no relief to the reality that in any number of subject areas or content areas, we can now officially declare them hard to fill areas.”

This issue has a national reach. Because certain subjects like special education and math are harder to fill, many classrooms are left teacherless.

“Right now in the state of Virginia, minimally we have 1,000 classrooms in which there’s not a teacher," said Bob Pianta, Dean of the Curry School of Education. "The teacher that is in that classroom is somebody who was brought over from their free planning period, or as a long-term substitute. And we know that that's not a sustainable solution for those schools, and it’s not a sustainable solution to the kids in that classroom.”

Officials say one of the causes of the teacher shortage is low salaries. Another cause is the five-year schooling requirement Virginia teachers face to earn their credentials.

For many, another year of student debt, as compared to going straight to work after graduation, is an easy decision. But, there's another reason.

“[We have] to return the respect back to the profession," said Dietra Trent, the Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. "I think as a society, we have done a disservice to our teachers and to the profession. If you think about it, there’s no one profession that touches the life of every single person in this country more than a teacher.”

For Governor Terry McAuliffe, this issue has a larger state impact.

"We've got to make sure that we're rewarding our teachers, that we're recruiting teachers to come in," McAuliffe said. "You can't build that new Virginia economy if you don't have that new exciting and dynamic education system. And you can't do that without the teachers."

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