SALT LAKE CITY — Some Western states have seen an increase in out-of-state teachers moving for work, but Utah doesn't seem to be the hotspot for Eastern states teachers that Wyoming and Montana are.
Deputy State Superintendent Martell Menlove said he isn't aware of any notable uptick in out-of-state recruits.
"Anecdotally, there seem to be a lot of quality applicants out there ... and I think most of them are locally-produced candidates," he said.
With more than 100,000 teaching positions estimated to have been erased across the country this year, many back-to-school stories this fall have zeroed in on teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. But a different story has emerged in the few states that have managed to avoid cuts and, in some cases, have even expanded their teacher corps over the past few years.
Education leaders in some of these states, many of which are mineral-rich and in the West, say the past few years have brought a dramatic increase in applications from teachers in other states — some who have been laid off during the recession, others who are drawn by the lifestyle and comparative economic stability.
“People think there are jobs here for them,” says Elizabeth Keller, Montana’s education licensure manager.
Montana ranked second in the country, behind only North Dakota, in its percentage increase in teaching positions from 2008 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Keller’s office issued 46 percent more teaching licenses for out-of-state applicants in that same period, while the number of in-state applications remained relatively flat. State officials in North Dakota say the number of licenses issued for out-of-state candidates dramatically increased there, as well.
The Davis School District — the second largest in Utah — did see more out-of-state applicants this year, but that likely has to do with the district's new online application, said spokesman Chris Williams. Beyond that, most candidates come from within the state.
"We haven't necessarily hired a number of people from out of state that we've noticed," he said.
In fact, the district has run into roadblocks when trying to diversify its staff.
"If they don't have relatives here, if they haven't been here before, it's really hard to bring them in," he said.
Menlove said that for years, Utah was losing first-year teachers to Nevada. But that trend has reversed as Nevada's economy has struggled. Now, Utah schools have their choice of multiple candidates from within the state.
"Anecdotally, I think people are still finding very high-quality candidates and multiple candidates for many open positions," Menlove said.
The greatest out-of-state influx has been in neighboring Wyoming, which has seen the number of out-of-state teaching license applications jump by roughly 70 percent over the last few years, according to Andrea Bryant, a program consultant for Wyoming’s Professional Standards Teaching Board. “They just keep going up,” she said.
There’s at least one good reason for the increased teacher interest in Wyoming. The state pays its teachers well. Wyoming is in the upper third of states for average salary and it’s in the top five for starting salary, according to the most recent figures from the National Education Association. But those numbers are even more impressive when cost of living is taken into account. Using a state comparison model developed by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Wyoming’s starting salary in 2009, just north of $43,000 in real dollars, was tops in the country.
Jacob Fischer, a first-year shop teacher at Lander Valley High School, in Lander, Wyo., is making more than his mother, who’s been teaching for 10 years in Minnesota, his home state. “She’s actually looking into moving to Wyoming,” he says.
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