Ian Patrick, FISM News
As the 2022-2023 school year has started or will soon start across the United States, many schools are suffering from a dire shortage of teachers.
The Washington Post detailed the teacher shortage on August 4, saying the problem was hitting “crisis levels.” Since then, data has continued to emerge showing how widespread the issue is.
A poll conducted by YouGov from August 16-19 showed that 44% of U.S. adults believe there certainly is a teacher shortage in their local areas. Another 35% were unsure and 20% said there wasn’t a shortage at all. However, the shortage appears to be worse in some areas than in others.
Some states have begun to find new ways to address the issue.
For instance, Florida recently passed a law allowing certain qualified veterans, who have not earned a bachelor’s degree but have at least 60 hours of college credit, the opportunity to teach with a special five-year temporary certification. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. told Fox News that this was simultaneously an attempt to allow veterans to teach valuable “structure and skills” to students while also filling widespread teacher vacancies.
As of August 22, more than 250 veterans had applied for the program.
In Georgia, the state government signed House Bill 385 into law which allows certain retired teachers to continue teaching while earning their pensions and full-time pay. This attempt to address the teacher shortage has not yielded great results so far.
New Jersey is implementing a pilot program for experienced individuals that didn’t hit certain grade or test scores to become teachers. New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced incentives at the beginning of 2022 to attract more teachers to New York.
Some school districts in Texas are switching to four-day work weeks as they struggle to replace leaving teachers from the previous school year.
Some efforts break state barriers. According to a FutureEd article, some districts are spending COVID-relief funding provided by the federal government on addressing the staffing issue. This includes paying bonuses and hiking salaries for current teachers.
The U.S. Department of Education tried organizing a unified response from states and school districts in response to the teacher shortage. Specifically, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called for “state policymakers, higher education leaders, and school districts to use pandemic relief and recovery funds to increase the number of teacher candidates prepared to enter the profession as early as possible.”
But the problem didn’t sprout up all of a sudden. In an interview with ABC News’ “GMA3” program, National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle said that she has been “sounding the alarm for almost a decade and a half” on the disproportionate number of teachers entering the profession and leaving it.
She also blames the COVID-19 pandemic and school shutdowns for worsening the problem.
“We are estimating about 300,000 shortages of teachers and support staff across this nation as students go back to school,” Pringle said. “But I will tell you that we have been sounding this alarm since last year and we have been working really, really hard to try to do something about it.”
A recent National Education Association survey revealed that 55% of teachers are thinking of leaving or retiring sooner than they had planned, mostly because of the strains brought by the pandemic.
The same survey showed that 90% of teachers said they are at least somewhat experiencing burnout, while 67% say it is a very serious problem for them. Additionally, 91% of teachers say they feel general stress from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As for the increased workload passed to teachers by unfilled positions, 80% of teachers indicate that this proves to be at least somewhat of a problem for them. Another 78% say there is a serious problem with low pay.
As for how teacher burnout should be handled, the remaining teachers themselves said that higher salaries would be the best option. A total of 96% of teacher respondents to the NEA survey indicated some support for higher salaries, followed by additional mental health support for students (94%) and hiring more teachers (93%).
The American public seems to agree with teachers. The same YouGov poll from above asked respondents how they think the teacher shortage should be handled, and 73% indicated at least some support for paying teachers more than their current salaries.