DES MOINES, IOWA — A new school year is just around the corner for students and teachers across the state and school districts are still struggling to fill open positions.
The Des Moines Public School district recently announced several incentives that would give new staff hires signing bonuses and longtime educators could receive a big chunk of change to have them stay on the job longer.
On the DMPS website, there are 45 teaching positions open, 29 food service jobs, 24 custodial positions and seven transportation related jobs.
“We’re facing an educator crisis, not only the certified teachers that are in the classroom but our classified individuals as well,” said Mike Beranek, the President of the Iowa State Education Association. “Districts across the state are having difficulty finding bus drivers, folks to work in food nutrition as well as classroom teachers and the individuals who work one-on-one with our students.”
The DMPS has a lot of positions open, but teachers remains the biggest need. Other school districts in the state do not have an issue with hiring new teachers, but they still need people to take jobs in the district.
The Johnston Community School District only has two teacher positions open at the moment. But the school still wants to hire eight bus drivers, six people to work in nutrition, 14 associates and one custodial crew vacancy.
In the union president’s mind there are two huge factors as to why it is difficult for school districts to bring in new faces. The first being the way teachers are viewed in the state.
“You’ve heard attacks placed on our public employees or public school employees. We’re called sinister teachers, we are being called on what we’re using for curriculum in our classrooms which have been district approved,” said Beranek. “There is a minority narrative occurring across the state where people are actually attacking our public schools.”
Beranek added that the way educators are talked about in the state makes people debate on entering or continuing in the field. Another factor is the wages they make.
“One of the biggest incentives would be for everyone to receive a salary that is comparable to other professions,” said Beranek.
The Des Moines Public School district is offering a minimum salary of just under $45,000 for certificated teachers. Other school districts starting wages vary on where they are located in the state.