TOPEKA — Eight public school districts from Attica to Dodge City to Tonganoxie launched the pilot of a program designed to develop more classroom educators through a four-year registered teacher apprenticeship.
The initial group of 15 aspiring teachers convened Tuesday at Wichita State University for an introductory workshop with the Kansas State Department of Education. Participants in the program receive a salary for working in the classroom and collaborate with experienced educators while earning a bachelor’s degree at a college or university accredited by the education department.
The apprenticeship initiative could grow to 50 within a year and included more than 100 after several years, said Randy Watson, the state’s education commissioner.
“This is an important step to alleviating the shortage of educators we have in Kansas,” he said. “It is a win-win situation for individuals who want to pursue teaching as a career, school districts that have a shortage of educators and our students who deserve a quality teacher in every classroom.”
He said participants in the state’s teacher apprenticeship program would look back on launch of the pilot as a point in which divergent organizations came together for the common goal of building the cadre of quality teachers.
It’s a collaboration among the Kansas State Board of Education, the Kansas Department of Commerce and local public school districts. Sponsoring districts in the pilot year include Salina, Wellington, Lyons, Auburn-Washburn, Topeka, Attica, Dodge City and Tonganoxie. The pilot was designed to identify and address any programmatic hiccups before statewide initiation of the program in 2024-2025.
State funding earmarked for the Department of Education’s teacher licensure operation would be funneled to provide grants to cover college tuition for apprentices, a portion of an apprentice’s salary and compensation for mentor teachers.
“Historically, when all of us think apprentices, we think about the trades. We think about a plumber, HVAC technicians, a welder,” said Mike Beene, an assistant secretary at the Kansas Department of Commerce. “Guess what? Apprentices are for IT and health care professions, and today they’re for teachers in the state of Kansas.”
He said Kansas was among four states making the cultural shift to teacher apprenticeships and investing in a broader range of initiatives to meet demand in hard-to-fill occupations.
Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bipartisan bill approved by the Kansas Legislature this year to expand apprenticeships with business, health organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit groups through the use of tax credits and financial grants.
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