One of the rarely-discussed effects of the coronavirus pandemic was the looming teacher shortage, both full-time and substitute teachers, across multiple states in the country. Teachers have told the media and their administrators that the pandemic raised their stress levels and made teaching less attractive than in years past.
The left-wing teachers’ union, the National Education Association (NEA), warned that there was a big chance that there will be a teacher shortage in the 2021-2022 school year. Its survey found that 32% of teachers said they would leave the teaching profession earlier than anticipated, an increase of four percent from the previous year. Yet, 76% of teachers said that they were ready for normal classes to resume, in part due to getting vaccinated.
The numbers are in and the teacher shortage is a serious problem facing public school districts, which are struggling to replace teachers or plug in substitute teachers.
In Arizona, the Mesa Public Schools district is suffering from a substitute teacher shortage, with many assignments going unfilled and schools being short-staffed. In one instance, there were over three-hundred substitute assignments requested by teachers, but the district initially filled a third of them and struggled to staff the rest of the assignment requests. The district returned to normal, in-person classes this school year and the shortage could illustrate how some teachers chose to take a year off, retire early, or try to work virtually out of concern for the pandemic and various coronavirus variants.
Michigan’s NEA affiliate said it saw a 40% increase in teacher retirements at the end of the previous school year. One of the state’s largest districts in western Michigan, Grand Rapids Public Schools, said they could not fill over 200 teaching and staff positions before the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
Southwest of Chicago, Illinois, the Peoria Public School District tried to patch up the teacher shortage problem by hiring international teachers before the pandemic. The superintendent told CNN, “We had to go international because our pool in the United States, it’s actually very, very dry, and you cannot sit and wait for people to apply to positions online. We have to go after them,” the official said, “So, we have 27 that are coming from the Philippines, two from the Dominican Republic and one from Cameroon.” Despite their efforts, the district still suffers from a teacher shortage.
In Carter County, a rural eastern Tennessee county bordering North Carolina, the school district closed for a day because it lacked enough bus drivers and substitute teachers. Similar problems are plaguing other school districts, such as the Minneapolis Public Schools. Minneapolis asked parents to transport their children to school, if they are able, because they expect “sporadic” bus services due to bus driver shortages.
Fairfax County Public Schools, located in northern Virginia, also asked parents to shuttle their children to and from school. Its statement noted that there “may be delays impacting bus routes” due to the bus driver shortage, although the district is providing a $2,000 signing bonus to potential bus driver applicants.
Teacher shortages also affect special education students. The U.S. Department of Education said that except for New Hampshire and New Mexico, the rest of the 48 states are lacking special education teachers to fill open positions. It has gotten to the point that districts are offering monetary incentives, such as North Carolina’s Wake County Public Schools, which offered $3,500 incentive to fill 105 vacancies in special education.
Much of the narrative surrounding the doom-and-gloom teacher shortage news focused on low teacher salaries, long hours, and stress induced by helicopter parents. However, the powerful teachers’ unions are not offering common sense, free-market arguments to cut down the large costs of government-provided education. For example, unions resist cost-cutting measures such as slashing the large education bureaucracy at the local, state and federal levels, which would allow districts to give teachers a higher salary.