CHIICAGO (NewsNation) — In states from Florida to Mississippi to Texas, school districts across the U.S. are dealing with staffing shortages as years of difficulties filling vacancies have been exacerbated by the stress of COVID-19, as well as economic woes.
A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Education Association found 55% of educators planned to leave the profession sooner than they’d earlier planned because of the pandemic. Similarly, a report by the National Council of Education Statistics found that 61% of school vacancies are due to the pandemic.
Inflation and the economy have played a part in the shortage, as well. Loans that cover the costs of geting a bachelor’s degree — which all 50 states require for a teacher to get certified — run the average college student about $400 a monthly upon graduating, according to Lending Tree, an online loan marketplace.
Low pay doesn’t help, either. The National Education Association reports that the average teacher’s salary is lower today than it was 10 years ago when adjusted for inflation. That, paired with today’s robust job market, has significantly diminished the appeal of the profession.
Then there’s retention: Nearly 50% of teachers quit the profession within their first five years, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future — an unflattering backdrop juxtaposed against the number of states issuing fewer teaching licenses,
Florida — the state’s largest teacher’s union — reported more than 9,000 vacancies for teachers and support staff in January.
Andrew Spar, who is president of the Florida Education Association, was on NewsNation’s ‘Rush Hour” on Wednesday to describe the scene, which he says is the worst he’s seen.
“We’re seeing numbers like we’ve never seen before,” Spar said. “I think we’re seeing a big spike in people just walking out of the profession. Mmy youngest daughter was in 7th grade this past school year and after the winter break, her science teacher returned and said she was going to be resigning.”
Some states are trying strategies such as raising teacher salaries or seeking more educators from outside formal training programs to address the shortage, as officials in places such as Illinois, Georgia and Kansas are still worried about filling positions in the fall.
Other districts are implementing residency programs, which allow teachers-to-be to learn on the job while getting an education degree from a local university. At least 12 states have some type of residency, although most only work with high schoolers, or only work with those who have degrees from other fields.