Colorado teacher shortage declared a crisis

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DENVER -- Educators say there is a shortage of teachers in Colorado and it's only getting worse.

It’s a big problem in small towns, where some districts have struggled to fill positions for years. Now it’s also hitting the Front Range.

There are about 3,000 to 3,500 open positions every year. Nearly 30 percent of current educators are nearing retirement, with science and math teachers most needed.

State officials say there are three reasons why people aren't going into teaching: The perception of the industry, the high cost of college education and the low pay.

The lowest-paying district in the state pays about $25,000 a year, but the cost of living is 20 percent higher than that.

"We've had schools go four of five years without a math teacher and I'm sorry, but that's just not acceptable in the state of Colorado," said Robert Mitchell with the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

"Our kids deserve better, we deserve better. ... We're working on this. We've done the studies. We know why people don't go into teaching. We know why people leave. Now it's time to say, 'Hey, look, we have the data, let's move to action.

"Part of this process is really talking to people out in the community both the educational community and the business community we can to get ideas of how they think we should fix this educator shortage. It's a really complicated problem.

The shortage has prompted a series of town halls thanks to legislation signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May.

Education officials are asking the public for ideas for a solution.

An action plan is expected to be in place by Dec. 1.