School districts across the country are struggling to fill hundreds of open teaching positions in the remaining weeks of summer before the school year kicks off.
“Truly, in my time in education, I have never seen a shortage of teachers like this,” Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras in Virginia said last month at a school meeting.
The school district reported having 209 vacant teacher positions in mid-July. Roughly a month later, the district is now rushing to fill 144 vacant teaching jobs with just two weeks until the school year begins, WRIC reported.
The district plans to employ long-term substitute teachers for about 100 of the positions to help fill the gaps, while actively hiring teachers throughout the school year. The district also rolled out a $10,000 bonus incentive initiative for new teachers and a $1,000 incentive for current teachers to stay in their jobs.
“So we do believe between long-term [substitute teachers], additional hires over the next two weeks and some leveling of positions that we will have every single class covered on the first day of school,” Kamras said, according to WRIC.
The Richmond school district is far from alone in coping with staffing shortages just weeks before the school year begins.
School districts across the country have been struggling with an exodus of teachers since the pandemic. A survey conducted earlier this year by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 44% of public schools report having full- or part-time teacher vacancies.
The survey, published in March, found that 61% of public schools reporting at least one vacancy cited the pandemic for the open jobs. Most of the vacancies were due to resignations, not retirement, the survey reported.
Similar to Richmond, Durham Public Schools is rushing to fill 270 certified teacher vacancies and 73 classified teacher vacancies with just two weeks until the school year begins.
The assistant superintendent for Durham schools said the district is working to fill some of the positions through a teacher candidate program, with DPS recruiters talking to high school students about education as a career before they graduate high school, WRAL reported.
“We can catch them early and know before they even graduate high school that they will indeed be a DPS teacher,” assistant superintendent Dr. Alvera Lesane said, the local outlet reported.
More of the same has been reported at Miami-Dade schools, where the district is working to fill 224 teaching positions, Axios reported Monday. In Dallas, the independent school district reported 82 vacancies earlier this month. And in New Jersey, the Sayreville School District reported two dozen open teaching positions across its high school and middle school.
Recent law changes in Arizona amid the state’s staffing crisis now allows people who are enrolled in college, with no bachelor’s degree yet earned, to begin teaching at public schools. While Florida has looked to hiring veterans to help fill the nearly 8,000 vacant positions across the state.
“If you served in the military for at least four years or were honorably discharged, have taken 60 college credits and passed a subject area exam, we want you to be able to teach Florida students,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week.
Staffing shortages began plaguing school districts nationwide during the pandemic, as teachers reported burnout stemming from the uncertainty during lockdowns, including switching to remote learning, hybrid learning, and eventually transitioning back to in-class instruction.
About 300,000 public school teachers and staff have left the field between Feb. 2020 and May 2022, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey from the National Education Association in February found that 55% of teachers reported that they are thinking about leaving the profession, and 79% of teachers report dissatisfaction with their careers, according to a July American Federation of Teachers survey.
“Teachers have gone from in-person learning one day to totally virtual the next,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told Spectrum News this week. “While we recognize our teachers have bent over backwards, we really have to make sure that as we’re reopening schools, we’re listening to what our parents and teachers have to say.”