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Front Page Talking Points


Vacancies at the head of the class: Teacher shortages affect schools across America


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The 2022-23 school year starts with notable vacancies in many districts from coast to coast. Nearly 300,000 teaching and support positions are unfilled, says president Becky Pringle of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. She calls it a "five-alarm crisis." Reasons include departures because of the coronavirus pandemic, rising disrespect from students and parents, political influence on lessons and reading lists, and safety concerns. "We have a crisis in the number of students who are going into the teaching profession and the number of teachers who are leaving," Pringle adds.

Houston had nearly 1,000 vacancies in early August. Kansas reports about unfilled 1,400 teaching jobs, that state’s largest gap ever. And Florida lists a whopping 8,000 teacher openings. Maria Zuniga, a high school teacher in Nevada, worries about students in short-staffed districts. "Our classes are going to be packed to the max, and unfortunately kids are going to have long-term substitute teachers or teachers who are not qualified to teach those specific classes," she tells the newspaper USA Today.

State officials and local administrators are scrambling to recruit. Districts in Nevada and Texas have raised starting salaries. The Dallas Independent School District offers $60,000 a year to newcomers, as well as signing bonuses and other incentives. Ninety-eight percent of positions are filled. District of Columbia Public Schools, in the nation's capital, offers $2,500 bonuses to new hires in one of the "highest-need content areas" -- special education, elementary education, and visual and performing arts. A high school district in Daly City, Calif., south of San Francisco, built a housing complex for teachers and district staff that offers more than 120 apartments at below-market rates. And in central Florida, the Okeechobee County School District has recruited teachers from India, the Philippines, Mexico, Jamaica and Peru. And in New Jersey, dozens of districts will use "virtual teachers" for online learning in classrooms.

Elsewhere, some systems relax qualifications to make it easier for new teachers to begin. In the past year, at least 12 states have changed or eliminated licensing requirements, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality. That can mean letting teachers into the classroom before they're fully certified, as districts in Texas, Arizona and Alabama are doing, or hiring applicants without a college diploma. Military veterans in Florida who've served four years now can teach even without a bachelor's degree. More than 80 have applied, the state's education commissioner reports.

Rather than lowering standards, national labot leader Pringle suggests these approaches to keep and attract qualified educators: "Professional authority to make teaching and learning decisions for their students. Professional rights to have the conditions and resources to do the jobs they love. And professional pay that reflects the importance of the work they do."

Federal official says: "To move our education system forward, let's start with uplifting and respecting our teachers. Pay teachers more." – Miguel Cardona, U.S. secretary of education

Arizona union leader says: "We're seeing what I guess we could call a mad scramble to try to fill classrooms." -- Marisol Garcia, Arizona Education Association president

Superintendent says: "The four-day week [starting this fall] kind of makes it a little more manageable for teachers because there's so much pressure placed on them." -- John Seybold, head of the Jasper Independent School District in southeastern Texas

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2023

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

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