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Lawmakers Address Discipline, Education Needs

Nearly half of Utah's teachers are quitting within five years of starting their careers. Rep. Dan Johnson said, "We need to keep our great teachers," and said addressing school disciplinary tactics will be critical in the discussion.
Beth Hollliker
/
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Rep. Dan Johnson said, "We need to keep our great teachers," and said addressing school disciplinary tactics will be critical in the discussion.

According to Utah State Senator Lyle Hillyard, there is currently a 40% turnover rate for public safety workers and a nurse shortage of about 25,000 positions. 

Another profession that’s struggling to maintain staff? 

Public school teachers.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said 48% of teachers in Utah leave the profession in the first five years. And House Representative Dan Johnson — a former educator — said the low salary is not the biggest motivator.

“Pay is an issue, it certainly is. But I also know that the circumstances under which people have to perform their job also is a big, big factor," Johnson said. "Because one of the reasons that they are leaving is that they feel like they're, they're not supported. Sometimes they feel like they can't do things in their classroom, and that’s very disappointing for them.”

Johnson said addressing school discipline will be a key factor in the discussion.

Hillyard said another of his main concerns is getting more programming for early education, including extended-day kindergarten.

“We have too many kids coming into kindergarten totally unprepared," Hillyard said. "Our goal is that every child at third grade needs to be at third grade level. Now it's less than 50%. We've got to answer that. So, we're doing a lot of a lot of things with education in the area of early pre-K, K-3 programs.”

But lawmakers say in order to reach that goal, the state needs money to pay for teachers and for there to be less turnover in the profession. And Johnson said it doesn’t stop there.

“From a bus driver dealing with kids coming to school and getting them started, hot lunch folks getting kids lunch and playground supervisors, and after school clubs and organizations," he said, "this situation with kids, it goes all over the entire environment.”