From Texas Public Radio:
The teacher shortage has existed in pockets of the country for decades, concentrated in high-poverty districts and in subject areas like special education.
But over the last couple of years, the shortage has become more intense and widespread. In San Antonio, school principals and district human resource directors have seen a sharp decline in the number of applicants.
“It seems every industry is struggling to find people to work. And yes, we’re feeling it like everyone else is. And it’s just been something that we hadn’t experienced in the past,” said Chyla Whitton, the director of human resources at the North East Independent School District.
Whitton said North East used to have lines of people show up to job fairs, but those lines have disappeared. NEISD is San Antonio’s second largest school district and it includes some of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. Historically, Whitton said, it was a place teachers wanted to work.
Erin Deason, a middle school principal at NEISD, is hopeful that the teacher shortage is a temporary problem.
“I think if we can get through COVID and what we’re doing now I just I can see success coming for sure,” Deason said. “I do see light at the end of the tunnel.”
But 12-year veteran teacher Billy Cano, who recently quit his job at another NEISD middle school, doesn’t see a way out unless there are big changes to give teachers more time and support.
“I hope I’m wrong, because public education is necessary. And these kids need teachers, and these kids need teachers, especially at (low-income schools), who can build relationships with them,” Cano said. “But my question is, where are these teachers coming from?”
Cano said every teacher that quits like he did leaves more responsibility on the shoulders of the teachers that remain — and makes them more likely to quit too.
As an instructional coach and department chair tasked with supporting other teachers, Cano said he would usually teach at most two classes. But this year he was teaching five classes because his department had three vacancies. He spent hours every night working on administrative duties.
It’s possible that more people will start applying for teacher positions again when the wider labor market calms down, but that doesn’t solve the pre-existing problem of high teacher turnover. And it won’t make up for the thousands of experienced teachers that have already left the classroom.
Two surveys of Texas teachers released earlier this year warned that a huge swath of teachers were thinking about quitting. The turnover data in San Antonio shows they followed through.