Brazosport ISD’s partnership with Brazosport College and the state Region 4 Education Service Center is a promising avenue to ensure the district has enough teachers to address current and future staffing struggles. We hope it works, but given factors outside local control, prospects of its long-term success are questionable.

The three entities had an information session last week to promote a first-in-Texas program in which prospective teachers will work as paid apprentices while pursuing their certifications. Starting with dual-credit students who will not be paid, the district plans to hire 65 teaching apprentices at one of three levels.

Level one is for students with fewer than 60 hours of college, level two is for those with an associate degree or near completing one, and the top level is those with a bachelor’s degree, who will be in a classroom full-time.

The idea is to remove financial barriers that could prevent people interested in teaching from pursuing it as a career. Since they are being paid as full-time school employees during their apprenticeships while also taking classes, it removes concerns over how students can support themselves while pursuing their degrees and teaching certifications.

But while that barrier is addressed, larger issues in Texas education remain, including too-large class sizes, one of the worst retirement programs in the country, high costs for health benefits and a general disillusionment with the system. The result is seen in districts across the state struggling to fill classrooms with qualified educators — and keep them after they are hired.

More teachers last school year left the profession either by choice or retirement than it had seen in more than a decade, according to Texas Education Agency data reported by the Texas Tribune. After staying relatively flat at a 10 percent attrition rate since the 2010-11 school year, it jumped to 12 percent last year. It’s unclear whether the increase is an anomaly, but a deeper dive into the number is where concerns arise.

Many of the new teachers entering classrooms each year in Texas are doing so with intern certifications. These are people who might have college degrees in fields other than education who go through alternative programs that provide a path to full teaching certification.

While that process if filling vacancies, teachers who go through alternative programs leave the profession at a higher rate, according to the TEA. No one is sure why that is, but based on interviews conducted by the Tribune, disillusionment is a significant culprit.

In a Charles Butt Foundation poll of 919 Texas teachers last year, teachers overwhelmingly said they felt undervalued and underpaid. Among those surveyed, 68 percent said they seriously considered leaving the profession in 2021, an increase of 10 percentage points compared with the year before. In February, a Texas American Federation of Teachers survey of 3,800 of its members found that 66 percent of educators throughout Texas said they have recently considered leaving their jobs.

Aside from some of the issues mentioned earlier, classroom security and being handicapped by state leaders’ culture wars were among the reasons teachers decided to quit the profession.

Most, if not all, of those issues are things that cannot be remedied on the local level. Programs such as the Brazosport ISD apprenticeship initiative will create more teachers, it is only half the equation. Until state leaders remove politics from the equation and seriously address issues such as campus security, teacher health and retirement benefits, and reducing the need to “teach to the test,” Texas will continue to struggle to retain quality teachers regardless the efforts made on the local level.

This editorial was written by Michael Morris, managing editor of The Facts.

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