(NewsNation) — Children nationwide are ending their summer vacations and returning to class to begin a new school year. Not heading back with the students, however, are enough teachers.
The United States is facing a steep shortage of teachers, with nearly 300,000 vacancies nationwide threatening to turn the education system on its head.
“It’s really dire,” said Noel Candelaria of the National Educators Association. “At a moment right now when educators and students and parents are excited about the beginning of a new school year and all of the optimism that goes with that, we’re seeing across the nation an average of about 300,000 shortages all across the country.”
The 300,000 vacancies equate to a shortage of about 125,000 positions that are considered vital to fill for schools to properly serve students. Yet, low pay and increased scrutiny from public officials and parents are driving teachers from the position far faster than people are joining.
“The lack of respect, the lack of respect for professional authority to be able to teach truth from our curriculum,” Candelaria said. “The attacks we’ve been seeing on teachers, but also pay and benefits. Pay and benefits have been eroded over the last 10 years.”
Between 2020 and 2022, roughly 600,000 teachers left the profession, according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It is a huge crisis where a lot of students are going to walk into classrooms with either no teacher, substitute teacher or teachers are going to have to be sharing the workload until those positions can be filled, if they do get filled this school year,” Candelaria said.
Teachers are making about $2,000 les per year, when adjusted for inflation, than they were 10 years ago, Candelaria said. This comes at a time when it has arguably never been more difficult to be a teacher, especially coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the education system.
“This is an issue that’s really been culminating even prior to the pandemic,” Candelaria said. “We had seen the shortage of teachers, of students wanting to come into the profession because of the attacks on teachers, on public education.”
What’s the solution? A combination of funding and increased respect for teachers from students and parents is needed to solve this crisis, Candelaria said.
“We’ve seen lately the impact of increasing teacher pay to make sure we are attracting teachers, but we also need to invest in our colleges and make sure colleges are affordable and accessible,” Candelaria said.