ND teachers' advocates renew concerns over recruitment barriers

Mike Moen
Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota has a new Teacher of the Year. Educators say awards take on new meaning in the pandemic, but more support is needed to keep them from leaving the profession.

This week, Bret Dockter, a sixth-grade teacher from Harvey, received the highest honor. He made reference to his peers' dedication during the pandemic, as well as teacher shortage concerns in the U.S.

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, the statewide educators' union, said it's frustrating to see there might be enough prospective teachers finishing college, but not all of them are jumping into the pool right away.

Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United, the statewide educators' union, said it's frustrating to see there might be enough prospective teachers finishing college, but not all of them are jumping into the pool right away.

"Even in the larger school districts that used to get 15 applicants for every posting that they had open, now they're getting five," Archuleta observed.

He noted some graduates might be delaying their careers until a better paying job opens up. Past research at Bismarck State College found North Dakota has faced more of a recruitment issue than an actual shortage.

This year, the Legislature approved a 1% boost in education funding, with 70% of new money going toward salary increases. The union is convinced it only happened because of enhanced federal support during the crisis.

Archuleta pointed out teacher pay in North Dakota still lags behind people who work in the private sector. He feels the pandemic has also added recruitment barriers, alluding to public backlash over mask mandates for schools.

Archuleta pointed out teacher pay in North Dakota still lags behind people who work in the private sector. He feels the pandemic has also added recruitment barriers, alluding to public backlash over mask mandates for schools.

"They take a look around them, they know that teachers have been used as a political football, and that's not why they want to go into education," Archuleta remarked.

In a recent Rand Corporation survey, one in four U.S. teachers said they're likely to leave the profession. That compares to one in six prior to the pandemic. Archuleta contended the findings are why policymakers need to establish long-term funding commitments, to help compel teachers to stay committed to the profession.