The teacher shortage has been slowly creeping up over the last decade, but it has really ramped up since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers who were once on the fence about staying in the field of education suddenly started retiring early, taking leaves of absence, and quitting en masse for new opportunities and higher pay.
While there are many complex issues to blame for the current teacher shortage crisis, what matters most is how it is and will continue to affect everyone.
Educators who remain in the field have to take on even more responsibility to cover the teaching positions that remain open in their buildings. Families struggle to provide the best educational opportunities for their kids when they may not have access to a qualified and experienced teacher. Community members who rely on well-educated high school students and graduates to fill their open job positions will suffer the consequences through the continued escalation of the skills gap.
To combat these challenges, school districts are coming up with unique ways to lessen the blow of the teacher shortage. In states like California, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas, many school districts are giving large bonuses to teachers to boost morale and prevent them from resigning. Other school districts in states like Indiana, Oklahoma, and Michigan have raised teacher pay across the board to attract new talent. States like Florida have seen success recruiting and retaining teachers in critical shortage areas by providing a college loan forgiveness program.
Forty-eight states now have alternative teaching programs that get professionals into the classroom well before their educational and certification requirements have been completed. Since interest in the field of education has seen a drastic decline, states hope that alternative programs to certification will attract people who didn’t go into teaching straight out of college.
School districts across the country are reaching out to retired teachers who have recently left their career with the goal of bringing them back. Many are using substitute teachers to get by whenever possible, although there is also a substitute teacher shortage. Creating larger class sizes, using remote teachers and utilizing virtual classes where a single teacher can teach across an entire school district are very viable options.
While some school districts are finding success using these tactics, others are still facing a huge teacher shortage well into the school year. This is particularly true for high-poverty school districts that can’t compete with school districts in more affluent areas. Teachers cite better pay, better benefits, better resources, and better behaviors in students as some of the reasons they choose to decline offers in these high-poverty districts.
This all points back to the research and many articles that identify how parents, the community and the school are intertwined in raising and educating a child. It takes a village, and when the village isn’t there, it falls on a few. That few, unfortunately, tends to be the teacher and given the violent climate and the disciplinary barriers that have recently been put into place, teachers have little recourse but to evaluate their career decision.