CHIICAGO (NewsNation) — In states from Florida to Mississippi to Texas, school districts across the United States are on the brink of staffing shortages as years of difficulty filling vacancies have been exacerbated by the stress of three school years affected by COVID-19, economic problems and a permanent inability to retain teachers.
A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Education Association found that 55% of educators planned to leave the profession sooner than expected due to the pandemic. Similarly, a report by the National Council for Education Statistics found that 61% of school vacations are due to the pandemic.
Inflation and the economy also played a role in the shortage. A bachelor’s degree — which all 50 states require for a teacher to be certified — costs the average student about $400 a month after graduation, according to Lending Tree, an online loan marketplace.
A low salary 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. This, coupled with today’s robust job market, has significantly diminished the attractiveness of the profession.
Then there’s retention: nearly 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future – an unflattering backdrop juxtaposed with the number of states issuing fewer teaching licenses,
Some states are trying strategies such as increasing teacher salaries or finding more educators outside of formal training programs to address the shortage, as officials in places like Illinois, Georgia and the Kansas still fears filling positions in the fall.
Other districts are implementing residency programs, which allow prospective teachers to learn on the job while earning an education degree from a local university. At least 12 states have some type of residency, although most only work with high school students, or only work with those with degrees from other fields.
As millions of students prepare for school next month, it remains to be seen what impact these vacancies will have on teachers, children and parents.