Teacher Shortage Roundup
The teacher shortage is a national crisis, and it was completely predictable - and preventable
In case you haven’t seen or read any news lately, there’s a teacher shortage. Or, rather, there’s a shortage of people willing to take teaching jobs at the current rate of pay under the current conditions.
It’s a national problem. It’s also a problem that was completely predictable.
Story after story about teacher shortages at the state and local levels feature educators noting that they’ve been warning about this for five years or more.
Yes, pay is an issue. Even with a number of districts boosting pay or offering bonuses, teaching vacancies are going unfilled. This is, in part, due to the fact that college students simply aren’t choosing to go into teacher training programs at previous rates. Eventually, that means there won’t be enough new applicants to fill the vacancies created by retirement.
Turns out, eventually is now.
States and districts are now trying to do SOMETHING to help address the crisis. Now - right now - as school is starting in 2022. Even though they knew years ago this problem would likely crop up. Even though the signs have been pointing in this direction for some time now. Now, now they are doing things.
Here’s a story out of Iowa about a district offering a pretty big cash bonus for retired teachers to return to the classroom:
Teachers at Des Moines Public Schools who had previously intended to retire but are now willing to work for an additional year are eligible for a bonus of $50,000 if they do so.
The system has 95 vacancies and just under 60 retired teachers willing to take the cash in exchange for one more year of service. To be clear, these teachers would be paid their salary PLUS $50,000 to teach just one more year.
Sure, that’s all well and good and may help with this year’s shortage. But it seems to be a bit of kicking the can down the road. What happens next year?
What’s the plan in Iowa for 2023 and beyond?
Missouri has an answer: A survey! Yes, that’s right. What every teacher wants: More paperwork. After surveying teachers in 2019 about the state of the profession and then proceeding to do nothing, Missouri policymakers are at it again. Another survey will surely tell them what they need to do to attract and keep teachers. Maybe this time, the teachers will tell the policymakers what they want to hear - that they can continue paying substandard wages and offering untenable working conditions and still attract people to the field.
Here’s more on the survey story:
Missouri is launching a statewide survey of teachers Monday in an effort to address the chronic teacher shortage. Districts in the St. Louis area told St. Louis Public Radio last month they were behind in hiring for the coming school year because of the shortage.
The results of the survey will inform the work of Missouri’s Blue Ribbon Commission, which is looking for policy solutions to the high turnover in the education workforce. There will also be a public hearing in Jefferson City on Wednesday for teachers to share their thoughts in person.
Three years ago, teachers labeled low pay as a top concern. Here’s betting that the 2022 survey also indicates pay is a key factor.
An Educator’s Perspective
Here’s a note from Nashville educator Mary Holden on why she decided to leave teaching after 19 years in the classroom.
With a national teacher shortage, it feels the district should be doing all it possibly can to support teachers. But it is not. It feels like the district has grown its management positions at the expense of its support positions, and in the process, the overall vision of how to actually support teachers has dissipated. This is definitely not how you retain good teachers and build effective leaders.
It seems states and districts just aren’t getting the message.
Or maybe they ARE getting the message and just don’t want to do what it takes to attract and keep teachers.
It took years to get into the current crisis. It may well take years to address all the issues that have created it. This year, though, will be telling - which districts and states will step-up with long-term, sustainable solutions and which ones will continue ignoring the problem?
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