Arkansas offers financial incentives for teachers in math, special education to meet shortage needs

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — The Arkansas Department of Education has released its list of subjects that have the most teacher shortages.

Areas like Special Education, math and science are in desperate need of educators.

The subjects needing teachers are typically the same year after year.

The Arkansas Department of Education wants would-be teachers to know there are financial incentives for teaching in these areas, and ways to work around the system that may be keeping people from the classroom.

Arkansas Tech University has just three math education majors this semester.

One of them is George Brooks.

He wants to teach high school math and coach football.

“You know, what better way to give back and be a good person by being a math teacher?,” said Brooks.

He says the problem isn’t people not wanting to teach.

“But people would rather get certified in something else,” Brooks said.

The Arkansas Department of Education says subjects like math and science always have teacher shortages.

“Because we all know that there’s other career opportunities in STEM that are higher-paying,” said Karli Saracini with the Arkansas Department of Education.

Saracini says Special Education has the highest turnover rate.

“I think it’s the workload,” Saracini said. “And then the large documentation, so that’s a lot of paperwork.”

There’s money on the table for teachers in these subject areas.

Like thousands of dollars a year in grants and loan forgiveness.

And there’s good news for Arkansans wanting to be teachers, but feel like there are too many hurdles.

This year, more than 400 Arkansas educators have emergency teaching permits, allowing them to teach with just a bachelor’s degree.  

“Until they get the other requirements like the Praxis assessment in that content area,” Saracini said.
Some school districts have Act 1420 waivers, which waives the need for a license.

There’s also the Professional Provisional Teaching License, where an expert in a particular field can come in and teach, get support from the state and, according to Saracini, after three years, the district can recommend that person for a standard license.

For Brooks, we find the fix by hiring really good teachers who can inspire future generations to do the same.

A couple of things happen when schools can’t fill these positions. The Department of Education says they try to connect schools with candidates, the school ends up moving staff around or the last resort, the school hires long-term subs one semester at a time to fill the gap.

If you’d like more information on how to become a teacher in Arkansas, click here or call the Arkansas Department of Education’s Recruiting and Retention office at 501-682-4342.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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