The Teacher Pipeline Shortage


If you are like most principals I know, one of those items on your list is probably finding a teaching candidate to replace a retiring teacher before June. If that position is for a science teacher, you’re going to have to move that to the top of the list.

Over the last five years the requests for teaching candidates from our CUS institutions have averaged 515 candidates per year, and the request for secondary teaching candidates have averaged 84 requests per year. The most requested teaching candidates are those in the field of science. Unfortunately, our CUS institutions have had a hard time keeping up with supply vs demand, but this has been happening for a number of years in both parochial and public schools.

The American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE) have reported very large shortages for public teachers throughout the United States. Colleges and universities are reporting fewer students pursuing degrees in the field of education. During the 2018 AAEE National Conference, the Orange County School District of Florida gave a report that reflected this growing demand. It stated that the district would be seeking over 1,200 teachers next year to replace their aging staff, and teachers who had decided to leave the profession. After surveying the colleges and universities in Florida to determine the projected number of graduating teaching candidates, the school district soon realized they would need to go out of state to meet their teaching vacancies. This school district has now focused on online recruitment, signing bonuses, better retention practices, and identifying potential teaching candidates whom are still pursuing their degree.

Working directly with LCMS principals, I have seen the same methods in practice. Principals have set up mentors to work with new candidates to improve retention. Calling entities have established a set moving allowance that acts as signing bonuses; this would allow candidates to put any unused portion of their moving allowance toward rent or utility deposits. As a means of retention and equity, Synodical Districts throughout the United States are encouraging calling entities to pay called workers the additional 7.65% FICA tax. Some of these schools have set up two different salary schedules; one for called commissioned ministers and one for contracted workers. I believe this is a great incentive for candidates, as most Synodically trained teachers have to take an additional nine to 11 credit hours to complete their Lutheran Teaching Degree over our public teacher candidates. I have also noticed schools are trying to identify candidates earlier so that they can contact them to share their ministry and get them thinking about a possible future position with their schools.

What are CUS institutions trying to do to assist our schools with candidates to fill their ministry openings? Recently, at the request of our principals, we have moved up our faculty approval dates so that teaching candidates can have the ability to interview early. This ensures that our high schools and elementary schools can have the opportunity to interview May graduating candidates as early as October, seven months before graduation. A number of CUS institutions have opened up job boards so that our public Christian educators can also review these opening. This has been extremely helpful for schools preemptively searching to fill an opening, but requires more monitoring for CUS institutions, as a number of candidates are asked to accept a position before they have completed their student teaching experiences.

Just as our schools try to retain their teaching staff, CUS institutions also try to retain candidates who want to be teachers. College advisors monitor student progress throughout their program, and direct students on required state certification practices; these need to be met before student teaching. As state certification standards continue to change, CUS institutions need to create programs so students can successfully pass these tests for certification. Both CUS institutions and AAEE have identified that these standards have frustrated some students out of the teaching program and have put others onto provisional status, meaning they could leave the profession after two or three years.

So what does the immediate future of our CUS teaching candidates look like? The teacher shortage will be here for a while, both in parochial and public schools. The projected numbers of CUS graduates for our 2018-19 class have not been completed this year, but it looks like it might be the lowest since I started my position fifteen years ago. In recent years, we initiated a program encouraging our alumni to “Tell a student they should be a Teacher.” We will continue to ask our alumni and teachers to share this with their students at an early age, and ask you to please help us identify which of those students want to be educators. We will continue to do our best to make higher education affordable to students, and a number of our CUS institutions already have scholarships available for students who want to go into church work. In addition, many congregations and districts have programs that allow students the opportunity to reduce their debt by assisting with loan payments—if they continue as educators in the LCMS.

The immediate future of providing educators from our CUS institutions may be down, but I work with a great group of principals, educators, administrators, and district folks who believe in Christian education. We have a God who will continue to bless us as long as we continue to bring the Good News of Christ through our schools. 

So if your wish list includes interviewing a new teacher and you are in need of candidates please contact us by filling out the candidate request form and sending it to all the CUS institutions listed. You can find the form on the “Concordia University System Information” website.

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Bill Schranz is the Placement Director at Concordia University Nebraska and can be reached at