Teacher Shortages Crippling Nation’s Public Schools

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT - SEPTEMBER 16: Teacher Elizabeth DeSantis, wearing a mask and face shield, helps a first grader during reading class at Stark Elementary School on September 16, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Most students at Stamford Public Schools are taking part in a hybrid education model, where they attend in-school …
John Moore/Getty Images

More than 75 percent of America’s public schools are facing teacher, paraprofessional, and bus driver shortages, says a survey by the Education Week Research Center.

According to a report published last week at education news outlet Education Week, 15 percent of school district leaders and principals surveyed said shortages are “very severe,” while 25 percent described the shortages as “severe,” and 37 percent said they were “moderate.”

Only five percent of the officials surveyed said they were experiencing no staffing shortages and another 18 percent described the shortages as “mild” or “very mild.”

According to the report:

Slightly more than three-quarters of respondents said they’re having trouble finding enough substitutes to cover teacher absences; 68 percent said bus drivers are hard to come by; and 55 percent said they’re struggling to fill open positions for paraprofessionals and instructional aides.

Full-time teaching positions, too, are causing headaches for administrators. Just shy of half of respondents identified teachers among the roles they’re struggling to fill.

According to a follow-up report on the survey, teachers named difficult work environments, overwhelming pandemic policies, and bitter political disputes among the main factors for the staffing shortages, as well as insufficient wages.

“We’re certainly not feeling like we’re in this period of recovery that we keep hearing about,” Brooke Olsen-Farrell, superintendent of the Slate Valley district in Vermont, told Education Week. “We’re still in this pandemic, and I think feeling the effects even more so this year than ever before.”

According to the report, Olsen-Farrell was working remotely and under quarantine after her vaccinated husband tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

The superintendent said she was facing difficulties in her attempt to hire custodians, teaching aides, bus drivers, special education assistants, and librarians.

Detailing how she is managing some of the issues, Olsen-Farrell noted the school district ended up cutting the middle school library program to prioritize library services for K-5 students.

She described the severity of the situation observing the middle school social studies teacher and a high school special education teacher both quit their jobs during the first week of school.

“They just walked out in the middle of the day, saying it was too much in this kind of environment,” she said. “It’s just too stressful.”

A report at FOX 32 noted that schools in Illinois suburbs reopened this week despite facing a “major” teacher shortage of 3,600 education jobs remaining unfilled throughout the state. Administrators and newly retired teachers are stepping in as school districts offer increased compensation.

Tulsa World also reported teacher retirements in Oklahoma rose this summer nearly 38% year-over-year.

“We have seen record numbers of retirements,” Oklahoma state Rep. John Waldron (D) said. “We are facing a chronic shortage of applicants for teaching positions, and we are certifying more and more teachers on an emergency basis. This is unsustainable.”

School districts with significant staffing shortages are mostly managing them by asking current employees to take on additional responsibilities, the Education Week survey noted.

Of the principals and district officials who responded, 66 percent said they were handling staffing shortages by asking current staff to take on additional tasks.

The K-12 public school crisis comes just several months after the Biden Department of Education announced it would spend the Democrats’ “American Rescue Plan’s historic funding for schools” in order to advance “equity” as a central focus of education in the United States.

The education department said its announcement was “part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Day One Executive Order to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government and build our schools and communities back better than before the pandemic.”

The Biden education department released a report that it claimed showed the coronavirus pandemic delivered “disparate impacts” on students in “underserved communities”:

Observations from the report include impacts of the pandemic on both K-12 and postsecondary education students, including how COVID-19 has deepened pre-pandemic disparities in access and opportunities facing students of color, multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, with significant impacts on their learning. The report also discusses how many students have lost access to mental health services during the pandemic, with early research showing disparities in negative mental-health impacts based on students’ race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+ identity, and other factors. Additionally, the report includes data discussing how the pandemic has caused heightened risk of harassment, discrimination, and other harms for Asian American and Pacific Islander students, and recognizes that the pandemic may have put students at heightened risk of sexual harassment, abuse and violence – particularly girls, women, and students who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.

Meanwhile, homeschooling has increased dramatically in the United States.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in late March that 11.1 percent of K-12 students in the nation are now homeschooling, a significant jump from 5.4 percent when school closures went into effect in spring of 2020, and from the 3.3 percent of families who homeschooled prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Census Bureau data showed homeschooling rates are surging among black families, in which the proportion homeschooling increased from 3.3 percent in spring 2020 to 16.1 percent in fall 2020.

Pastor Cecil Blye of More Grace Ministries Church in Louisville, Kentucky, told Breitbart News in April he and his fellow pastors have seen a surge in homeschooling “among families in black churches in Louisville, as well as a push to start private schools and charter schools by black pastors.”

“Yes, I am seeing more black families interested in homeschooling and joining co-ops or small schools, as polls suggest,” Blye said, emphasizing the trend “is allowing for more involvement in K-12 education by black churches.”

“The effect is that black students are skipping grade levels, becoming more proficient and flourishing in these more structured traditional environments,” he noted.

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