DENVER — Fixing Colorado's teacher shortage is a complex problem.
A lot of solutions are being explored, including a program that asks the community to buy into education in a different way.
With more teachers retiring than there are new teachers coming into the classroom, COVID, and the great resignation, the Colorado Department of Education said the combination of hurdles has resulted in a 17.1% turnover rate for teachers in Colorado for last year. It's impacting kids learning and putting pressure on staff.
However, when asking Brett Johnson, Aurora Public School's CFO, about a new pay for success initiative, it's an optimistic answer.
The program was first reported by Chalkbeat.
Aurora partnered with the non-profit PEBC, a state approved alternative educator preparation program.
"I think we are interested in ramping up, as long as the bandwidth and funding is there," Johnson said. "We are ready to increase that partnership."
PEBC raised $1.4 million from businesses and community partners to help cover the costs of alternative teacher training. It allows teachers-to-be to go through a residency program in classrooms and work with mentors before becoming a teacher themselves.
"Nationally, there are around 300,000 fewer teachers and school staff now than in early 2020," said Evan Kennedy, the Senior Director Strategic Initiatives for PEBC.
What's unique in this situation is that investors are covering up front costs, not teachers in training or the district. This kind of training can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $14,000.
Investor money can also cover up to a $42,000 stipend educator, higher than before.
Investors would get repaid if a teacher stayed within a district for three years with a small return.
"The retention rate for alumni of the residency rate is about 83% of them are still teachers after five years," Kennedy said. He compared to that national numbers that show half of teachers have left the profession by the five-year mark.
Johnson said there is an inflection point between years three and five where teachers are often deciding if they want to stay in the industry or not.
He also said replacing teachers is expensive.
"We have 2,500 teachers. That adds up quickly, that's why I say millions," Johnson said.
Aurora is a part of the pilot program and is encouraged by how the smaller pilot programs are working.
Aurora Public Schools, along with Durango, Montezuma, Cortez, Adams 13, Ignacio, Archuleta, and Bayfield are all participating.
Kennedy said, as a non-profit, it's hard for them to find stable funding to support their programs, so the investor funding has provided some stability for their training program.
The districts, along with PEBC, will be watching to see how well it works over the next three years.
Of course, this program doesn't address a big long-term issue of teacher pay.
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