DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — State governments are looking into how they can compete for, and retain, educators in the midst of a nationwide shortage.

The state of Ohio has lost about 50 percent of teacher candidates compared to a decade ago, according to Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association.

“I think there are a number of factors. Certainly, the pay gap is a significant one. When you ask young people what they want to do when they grow up, most people want to have a fulfilling career, but everybody wants to be able to pay the bills and put food on the table,” DiMauro said.

DiMauro said the average college graduate in Ohio who is entering the education field is making 14 percent less than they would in any other profession with the same educational experience.

“We also have a challenge, not just attracting people into our profession, but also supporting the educators who are there,” DiMauro said.

“Teaching is becoming pretty challenging, and there is a variety of factors. We have students with a diverse range of needs, including some significant mental health challenges. We need the resources to be able to provide students with a high-quality education, no matter where they come from, their family background, their income their race, their place in our state.”

The Ohio House of Representatives has, in its version of the budget bill, an increase in the minimum state teacher’s salary from $30,000 to $40,000.

“That’s an important step in the right direction, but even at $40,000, that would put us at less than the average starting salary across the nation. We need to make sure that all our schools have the resources to invest, not just in starting teachers, but also people with experience.”

DiMauro added that it’s not just about pay.

“It’s also making sure that educators have the respect and support that they need. Today we are seeing, across the country, political attacks on our education profession. Instead of offering support, we see certain politicians with an ideological agenda promoting wedges of distrust between parents and schools,” he said.

“We know that we have to work in partnership with everybody in the community to make sure that students have everything that they need. So, when young people see that educators are respected, I think they will be more likely to go into the profession.”