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• Lack of support for public education is draining the teacher pipeline our schools require.

School-funding cuts over the past several years caused immediate concerns for school boards around the state as they faced budget and personnel cutbacks. Now we are learning that the policies of Gov. Brownback and his supporters are creating long-term education challenges as a growing number of potential teachers choose to pursue other professional career paths.

A blue-ribbon task force established by the Kansas School Board Association indicates the state could be facing a teacher shortage in the coming years. The number of teacher education majors in public and private colleges in Kansas decreased 31 percent, from 7,752 in 2011 to 5,379 in 2014. The number of teaching degrees completed dropped 16 percent during that time from 2,271 to 1,901.

Why the decrease? Simply put, the challenges to increasing the number of teachers are low salaries, criticism of the profession and the instability of education funding, according to Rudy Perez, co-chair of the task force.

Perez said the teaching profession “is getting pretty beat up.” Some of his staff members have difficulty persuading their own children to consider teaching as a profession.

These findings shouldn’t surprise us, given the rhetoric and reductions coming from our governor and his supporters. The governor has two more years, but we have an opportunity to turn the tide in the Legislature during the 2016 elections. Voters need to send a much-needed message: We need to entice the best and brightest to devote themselves to preparing our children—and ultimately our state—for a brighter future. —DR

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