Educational Staff Shortages – What Can Be Done to Ease the Crisis

Before we address some of the ways to help mitigate the crisis, let’s review some of the contributing factors:

  • Low pay 
  • School climate
  • Lack of qualified applicants  
  • Lack of support
  • Single-year contracts
  • Lack of flexibility
  • COVID-19 Pandemic

This situation can’t be solved overnight, but there are a few things that can be done now that will help turn this around.

  • Low pay – State Legislatures can close the wage gap between teachers and comparably educated workforce by providing adequate funding for education staff professionals’ salaries and benefits. This funding should encompass not only new teacher salaries but should provide for fair raises for veteran teachers and staff.    
  • Working environment – providing opportunities for teachers to have a say in campus policy can go a long way toward improving satisfaction and teacher retention rates. There should be adequate safeguards in place to ensure the health and safety of all staff. Class sizes should be such that they are manageable so that the needs of students can be met. 
  • Lack of qualified applicants – in recent years the teaching profession has been perceived as an undesirable career. The key factors that drive this perception are complaints about wages and lack of teacher autonomy. A targeted program that provides outreach to young people to spark an interest in education as a future profession. Positive PR to counteract the negative perception is important. Here too, it is up to lawmakers to ensure that increased funding for salaries and benefits for educational professionals is a priority. All of these would also attract para-professionals and substitute teachers as well.
  • Lack of support – while districts strive to hire qualified applicants, most aren’t fully prepared for the demanding day-to-day work in the classroom. Without adequate support, many new teachers leave after a year or two. Districts must be given funding to provide professional development and mentor training for new teachers so that they are better equipped and therefore more confident to take on the everyday challenges of teaching. This is essential for not only ending the new teacher revolving door, but also for retention and recruitment. Funding should also be provided for relevant and meaningful professional development for all instructional and non-instructional professionals as well. 
  • Single-year contracts – policies that provide only one-year contracts for all teachers must be changed. Qualified, experienced teachers should be given multi-year contracts. 
  • Lack of Flexibility – reduce the time spent on test preparation and testing so that teachers can focus their attention on teaching and allowing students time to absorb appropriate curriculum. Teachers should also be allowed flexibility to teach based on the needs of individual students in their classrooms versus being forced to teach based on a specific “script”. 
  • COVID-19 Pandemic – there is no way to predict how long the pandemic will last or what the lasting impact will be. States and district administrations, with input from administrators and teacher representatives, should develop consistent protocols to address shut-downs, quarantines, virtual instruction, etc. Too often these protocols are made at the top level without any input from those on the front lines and this has led to stress and great frustration.

The educational staffing shortage has been growing for quite some time and won’t likely be solved quickly. It will take a concerted effort by legislators, state officials, district and local administrations and current educational staff to turn this around. The children deserve a safe, appropriate, public education.

Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.

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