Pandemic behind teacher shortage as kids go back to school

Education

(NewsNation) — As the 2022-2023 school year starts for kids in many districts, staffing numbers are still not making the grade.

“This shortage has been building for years,” Mary Kusler said to NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Monday.

Kusler is with the National Education Association, which has estimated the staffing shortfall to be at about 300,000 people.

In many cases, the solution means increasing the average class size for teachers.

“So what we end up doing is, we put a few extra students in this classroom, a few extra students in that classroom, and all of this takes away from the individual attention that teachers really want to give to their students,” Kusler said.

Over a third of current open positions are due to retirements and people leaving the profession entirely.

The pandemic, high expectations and low pay triggered burnout— even for teachers like Rebecca Rogers, who was just a few years into her career in North Carolina before calling it quits.

“A very common thread that I’ve seen a lot of educators posting is them coming to the realization that teaching has been so crazy lately over the last few years that they don’t recognize themselves,” Rogers said while on “Rush Hour” on Monday.

So far, answers have included bringing back retired teachers, like Pamela Andrews.

“You do have to come back and jump in full speed and try to take the kids where they are and move them forward,” Andrews said.

Many believe the forward momentum is imperative now that the worst of the COVID pandemic may be over. For a lot of kids, there’s catching up to do.

“Kids are actually slipping in their grade level, in their reading levels, they’re also slipping in their social-emotional learning, it’s very important to have those kids in school, with their peers, with their teachers,” said Charles Patterson, a Health Commissioner from Clark County, Ohio.

On top of the teacher shortage, getting kids to school is also a dilemma due to a bus driver shortage. In response, some districts are increasing salaries consolidating routes and urging parents to help with alternatives.

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