Just in time for the start of school, The New York Times reports that there’s a shortage of teachers. Across the country, school districts have gone from refusing to renew contracts to scrambling to hire teachers. This shortage is seen particularly in math, science and special education, and is a result of the layoffs from the recession years, as well as an improving economy in which fewer people are training to be teachers.
The issue is so critical that some systems are allowing new hires to train on the job and bringing in people who are still finishing their teaching credentials. According to the Times, the situation is most critical in Louisville, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Providence. However, Texas also fairs low. Holly Eaton, director of professional development and advocacy at the nonprofit Texas Classroom Teachers Association, says parents of some students will be harder hit than others because the shortages affect certain subject areas.
“Both recruitment and retention need to be addressed or it’s a lost cause,” Eaton says. “You have basically a leaky bucket that you keep filling and you’ll never get it full unless you do something to address retention.”
She believes it’s important to address what she calls the substandard working conditions of teachers by increasing their salaries and benefits. But while many argue that teachers are underpaid, their salary isn’t the only issue contributing to the recent teacher shortage.
“The problem with [raising salaries] is that it’s just addressing the recruitment side, and not the retention side,” Eaton says. “Unfortunately, we’ve had sort of this perfect storm of factors that has really … put the profession in trouble.”
In recent years, there have been drastic cuts, underfunding for education both nationally and locally, rising expectations for teachers, and test-based accountability systems. In Texas specifically, there’s a student population with increasing needs – like low-income and ESL students – and a “teacher-bashing” narrative seen among many policymakers, Eaton says.
“[They] seem to want to pinpoint the issues with education squarely on the teachers,” she says. “In order to really make the profession valued, you need to … include their voices in major decisions.”