As public schools across the United States usher in the new school year, they have found many classrooms without teachers — a severe problem that has led to shortened school weeks or even school closures in some places.
Teacher shortages, a long-time problem exacerbated by the pandemic, have recently hit national headlines as schools in various states grapple with surging teacher turnover.
The teacher shortage issue was complicated in school districts after the Clark County School District filed a lawsuit against a teachers union on Monday, saying the teachers’ absence was “a targeted and coordinated rolling-sickout strike.”
According to the county school district, four schools in Las Vegas Valley, Nevada, shut down Tuesday after “an unexpected” number of teachers failed to attend class.
Teacher shortages are detrimental to students and public education since these positions are either left unfilled or are filled with less qualified or uncertified candidates, warned researchers in a study published by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University last year.
The researchers estimated at least 55,000 vacant positions and 270,000 underqualified positions across the country from 2021 to 2022.
At the same time, the decline in enrollment for teacher certification programs continued for most states, while the number of teachers leaving the profession increased sharply in the last two years, according to the study.
The findings were echoed by the analysis released by the Learning Policy Institute in July, which shows that one in ten teacher positions in the United States are either vacant or filled by someone uncertified for the subject they are teaching.
Education experts blame a range of issues for the teacher exodus, including the profession’s low salaries, growing workload and worsening student behavior.
Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission surveyed teachers who recently left the state system.
According to the commission’s report released on Tuesday, the top reasons cited by those teachers are inadequate support from the school and administration, heavy workloads and salary concerns.
U.S. public school teachers have long complained about being underpaid compared to similarly educated professionals. Teachers and their supporters have been calling for compensation reform.
According to reports examining educator pay released by the National Education Association in April, average teacher pay has failed to keep up with inflation over the past decade. Adjusted for inflation, teachers are making 3,644 U.S. dollars less than they did a decade ago.