Monday, August 29, 2022

U.S. Teacher Shortage: How Bad Is It?

Well, there seems to be no shortage of purple magenta-haired woke elementary school teachers grooming children across the country, but heh, I'm sure it's a problem. I mean, with the low pay, lousy benefits, anger at bureaucratic idiot bosses, the leftist ideological takeover of the schools, and everything else FUBAR with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, who can blame them? 

At the New York Times, "How Bad Is the Teacher Shortage? Depends Where You Live":

Urgently needed: teachers in struggling districts, certified in math or special education. Perks: maybe a pay raise, or how about a four-day week?

The new fall semester has just begun in Mesa, Ariz., and Westwood High School is short on math teachers.

A public school that serves more than 3,000 students in the populous desert city east of Phoenix, Westwood still has three unfilled positions in that subject. The principal, Christopher Gilmore, has never started the year there with so many math positions open.

“It’s a little bit unnerving,” he said, “going into a school year knowing that we don’t have a full staff.”

Westwood, where most students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, is one of many public schools across the United States that are opening their doors with fewer teachers than they had hoped for. According to one national survey by Education Week, nearly three-fourths of principals and district officials said this summer that the number of teaching applicants was not enough to fill their open positions. Other surveys released this year have suggested that parents are deeply concerned about staffing and that many more teachers are eyeing the exits.

But while the pandemic has created an urgent search for teachers in some areas, not every district is suffering from shortages. The need for teachers is driven by a complicated interplay of demand and supply in a tight job market. Salary matters, and so does location: Well-paying suburban schools can usually attract more candidates.

If anything, experts say, the recent pandemic turmoil can be expected to worsen old inequities.

“It’s complex, and it does go back before the pandemic,” said Desiree Carver-Thomas, an analyst with the Learning Policy Institute. “Schools serving more students of color and students from low-income families bear the brunt of teacher shortages, oftentimes.”

For many years, it has also been particularly hard to find teachers for subjects like math and special education, or to fill spots at rural schools. And there has always been a dire need for more teachers of color in the United States. According to federal data collected during the school year ending in 2018, nearly 80 percent of public schoolteachers were white. Most of their students were not.

In Arizona, where starting salaries for teachers are lower than the national average, the shortages are “severe” across the board, said Justin Wing, an assistant superintendent of human resources for Mesa Public Schools, the district where Mr. Gilmore works.

“I feel like it’s been that way for probably at least 10 years,” said Mr. Wing, who is also an analyst for the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association. But this year, he added, seems even worse.

He attributes the problem in part to low pay, and he has watched districts in neighboring states, like Texas and Nevada, rub salt in the wound by advertising their teaching salaries on social media and on billboards along Arizona highways.

According to Mr. Wing’s data from the last school year, nearly four-fifths of teaching positions (measured in terms of full-time equivalencies) in Arizona schools had to be covered in less-than-ideal ways — by support staff, for example, or teachers in training.

And nearly one-third of positions remained vacant altogether, which often meant that existing teachers had to take on more classes.

The challenge for struggling districts is to cover positions in a way that not only fills seats but also serves students, said Tequilla Brownie, the chief executive of TNTP, a nonprofit that provides consulting services for districts on staffing and student achievement.

“Everybody right now is just talking about, frankly, warm bodies,” she said. “The quality of teachers still matters. You never will get to quality if you don’t get to quantity first.”

Over the past two years, several states including New Mexico, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi have tried to address or pre-empt shortages by raising teacher salaries.

Others have loosened certification requirements. In Arizona, a new law makes it easier for aspiring teachers without bachelor’s degrees to gain work experience in the classroom. In Florida, where state officials last year reported more than 4,000 teacher vacancies, some military veterans can be granted temporary teaching certificates.

And in some rural districts, where raises may be out of reach, school officials are putting entire school days on the chopping block.

In Missouri, where teachers receive among the lowest salaries on average in the country, John Downs, the superintendent of the rural Hallsville School District, said that the pool of qualified applicants has all but dried up in recent years. A few days before the start of the school year, positions in speech language pathology and math were still unfilled.

This year, Hallsville schools are trying to entice educators with a four-day workweek. “We’re competing against more affluent districts who can offer more lucrative salary benefit packages,” Mr. Downs said. “So we decided we needed to think outside of the box.”

Hallsville is not alone. In Missouri, 25 percent of all districts will be on a four-day schedule this fall. The condensed week is common in New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho and South Dakota, and is beginning to emerge in other states like Texas...
Still more.