Rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to lack of staff. Florida is asking veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms. Arizona is allowing college students to step in and instruct children.
The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels — and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them.
“I have never seen it this bad,” Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said of the teacher shortage. “Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts … necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”
Why are America’s schools so short-staffed? Experts point to a confluence of factors including pandemic-induced teacher exhaustion, low pay and some educators’ sense that politicians and parents — and sometimes their own school board members — have little respect for their profession amid an escalating educational culture war that has seen many districts and states pass policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about U.S. history, race, racism, gender and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues.
“The political situation in the United States, combined with legitimate aftereffects of covid, has created this shortage,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “This shortage is contrived.”
The stopgap solutions for lack of staff run the gamut, from offering teachers better pay to increasing the pool of people who qualify as educators to bumping up class sizes. But many of these temporary fixes are likely to harm students by diminishing their ability to learn, predicted Dawn Etcheverry, president of the Nevada State Education Association.
I am sure that prosecuting teachers if they talk about race in a job where they make $40,000 a year will really solve this problem. And even if they live in a blue state, having Qanon freak parents screaming in their face is undoubtedly a good reason to say that I can do something else with my life.