School is back in session soon and wading through the news about the teacher shortage can be difficult. Here’s a quick summary of what’s been said about the teacher shortage.

Is there a teacher shortage?

Some researchers say there is not.

Some researchers like Heather Schwartz have suggested that due to an increase in funding from the pandemic, schools hired more educators than in previous years. These researchers do not believe there is a shortage of teachers, but express worry that when the pandemic funds run out, schools will be forced to lay off more educators. And with falling birthrates, the researchers predict even more layoffs will occur, since public school funding depends on enrollment numbers.

Some education directors say there is.

Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, recently told The Washington Post, “I have never seen it this bad. Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts ... necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”

What does the data say about teacher shortages?

According to survey data as of June 2022 published by the U.S. Department of Education, the average school in the United States has three positions open. The survey also found:

  • 62% of public schools are concerned about their abilities to fill vacancies.
  • 88% of public schools reported that teacher and staff burnout is a concern for them.
  • 61% of public schools cite the pandemic as a factor causing the increase of vacancies.
  • As of June 2022, schools that have mostly students of color have 4.4 vacancies on average, whereas predominantly white schools have 2.6 vacancies on average.
  • General education and special education are the areas of teaching with the highest number of vacancies on average.

Why is there a teacher shortage?

The Hill reported a couple of possible reasons for the teacher shortage:

  • Fewer undergraduates are pursuing education degrees (there has been a decline since 2019).
  • Pandemic stress causing early retirement.
  • Low pay (96% of educators say that raising teacher salaries would reduce staff burnout).

“The fact is teachers aren’t paid adequately — and everybody knows it, and everybody talks about it,” said Cameo Kendrick, chair of NEA Aspiring Educators, according to The Hill. “These financial barriers are significant, especially as more nontraditional students consider (careers in) education. Like me, they have families and other responsibilities.”

The Washington Post reported reasons for the shortage as well:

  • Teacher and staff burnout.
  • Low pay.
  • Educators’ sense that politicians, some board members and parents do not see their job as important.
  • Policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about history, race, gender and sexuality.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Washington Post, “The political situation in the United States, combined with legitimate aftereffects of COVID-19, has created this shortage. This shortage is contrived.”

How are schools dealing with the shortages?

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According to The Hill, schools have started offering retention bonuses. One school in Texas voted unanimously to shorten the school week to four days a week and to give teachers a $3,000 retention bonus.

The Jasper Independent School District decided to make Fridays professional development days for teachers. District Superintendent John Seybold said, “The four-day week kind of makes it a little more manageable for them because there’s so much pressure placed on our teachers.”

He indicated that this shift led his district to receive multiple applications per vacancy.

The American Federation of Teachers presented solutions to the shortage in July 2022:

  • Ensure the safety of schools.
  • Increase pay and benefits for educators.
  • Decrease class size.
  • Improve relationships between teachers and administrators.
  • Reduce standardized testing.
  • Diversify the workforce.
  • Create a culture where parents and teachers have respectful relationships.
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