Nationwide Teacher Shortage Causes Public Education Crisis |
(The Center Square) – Schools across the country are experiencing a shortage of teachers due to several factors. In some states, legislatures have responded by lowering alternative education standards. In others, schools are asking parents to fill the void or simply closing schools because they don’t have enough staff.
School choice advocates say it’s time to start funding students instead of government-run public school systems.
Nationwide, according to Burbio.com school closure tracking, 7,164 schools were “actively disrupted (not offering in-person learning) on one or more days during the week beginning January 10.” The tracker comes with a map, which shows which schools across the country are closed or providing no in-person instruction by day and week. The site, an industry leader in aggregating school, government, library and community information, tracks school closures and mask policies.
In Texas, at the Jewish Academy in Austin, parents were asked to replace teaching due to teacher shortages. In Hays County, just south of Austin, its Consolidated Independent School District posted on Facebook that it was hiring “certified and eligible uncertified” substitute teachers. Parents can substitute even if they do not have the required 30 college hours.
The Richardson Independent School District, further north in the Dallas metro area, also asked parents to address “immediate and critical shortages.” Parents were asked to volunteer in a range of positions despite paying the district more in increased school taxes. Richardson CIO increased his tax rate 2.41% for maintenance and operation. The school district is asking parents to volunteer as cafeteria monitors, central office assistants or substitute teachers.
In California, the superintendent of the Palo Alto Unified School District issued a video ask for volunteers so that schools in the district can remain open.
“We can’t keep up. There is no labor pool,” Superintendent Don Austin told parents. “No amount of money can solve this problem. We need your help.”
Since the start of the current school year, many Michigan schools have closed due to staffing shortages. To provide a temporary solution, the state Legislature passed a bill, which Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Dec. 23.
The new law allows any pre-approved school district employee with a high school diploma to replace teaching: including bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, library aides, secretaries and others. The law expires at the end of the current school year.
The Iowa and Missouri legislatures have also passed laws lowering education requirements for substitute teachers, the National Teacher Quality Council reported.
As taxes rise, choices shrink and students suffer academically and emotionally, Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at the American Federation for Children, says these are all examples of the approach misconception of funding school systems instead of students.
“School closures have hurt children academically, mentally and physically,” he told The Center Square. “Two weeks of slowing the spread turned into two years of flattening a generation. Public schools spend more than $15,000 per student per year, on average. It’s time to give that money directly to families so they can can find alternatives. We should be funding students, not systems.
It also advocates that parents receive money directly to send their children to a school of their choice.
“The system is broken beyond repair,” DeAngelis said.
The staffing shortage in public schools has been going on for some time nationwide.
According to a 2021 frontline education survey of 1,200 school district administrators and principals, 67% reported a shortage of substitute teachers. Two-thirds reported teacher shortages, a record since the survey was launched in 2015.
“Teacher shortages are more common in urban school systems, with 75% of districts in cities of all sizes reporting shortages,” the report states; 65% of rural districts reported shortages, as did 60% of suburban districts.
A 2020 EdWeek Research Center survey found that nearly three-quarters of school and district leaders said their need for substitute teachers was up, but applications were down. As a result, a third of respondents said they could fill 50% or less of their absent teachers’ classes with substitutes; 80% said they left at least some classes uncovered.
One result, combined with other factors, was that more parents were withdrawing their children from public school. The United States Census Bureau reported the number of U.S. households that homeschooled their children in the 2020-2021 school year doubled from the previous year.
That number is only expected to grow, according to the Texas Homeschool Coalition. The group saw a 400% increase in requests from parents to help them process requests for withdrawal from public schools in 2020; in 2021, the number was five times higher.
By the end of the school year, more than 750,000 students were homeschooled in Texas, more than all private and charter school students combined, the coalition notes. He also estimates that home-schooled Texas families save the state more than $7 billion a year.
Nationally, a plurality of parents who chose other options, 34%, said they primarily withdrew their children due to concerns about the school environment; 21% to provide moral or religious instruction; 17% because they were dissatisfied with the academic teaching of the school.
According to a RealClear Opinion Research poll last year, 40% of registered voters said they were more likely to homeschool after their respective state shutdowns ended.
While John Schilling, president of the American Children’s Federation, said at the time of nationwide school closures that “policymakers owe it to the taxpayers who foot the $800 billion K-12 education bill for maximize their investment by ensuring that every child has access to quality education and outcomes are improved at all levels.
A year later, policymakers are calling on parents to step in to fill the void left by teachers and staffing shortages. And parents are still fighting legal battles with their school boards and local governments over a range of issues, including potentially being labeled as domestic terrorists by the US Department of Justice.