A teacher shortage in the United States that has been made worse by the coronavirus will last after the pandemic is over, Axios reported on Monday.
"It's a problem that existed pre-pandemic, it has been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the teacher shortage will not disappear with the pandemic," said Michigan's state superintendent of public instruction Michael Rice.
There were 575,000 fewer local and state education employees in October 2021 than in February 2020 across the nation, according to data in the latest jobs report put out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The data indicates that a net 65,000 public education employees left the sector between September and October alone.
The reason that the shortage is expected to continue is that many teachers are retiring or quitting due to stress during the pandemic, but not enough new ones are graduating from universities to fill the slots. Even as the pandemic subsides, a clear trend has been that educators are not coming back.
Although almost every sector is facing a shortage due to the pandemic, the situation is especially problematic in public education, according to Axios.
"Teacher salaries had fallen in the few years even before the pandemic, reducing the supply of teachers," says Susanna Loeb, an education economist and director of Brown University's Annenberg Institute. "So the shortage of teachers may actually be greater than the shortage in other areas, which are more pandemic related."
An Economic Policy Institute analysis shows that the wage gap between teachers and the remainder of the comparably educated workforce was about 21% in 2018, compared to only 6% in 1996.
Even though salaries for teachers have gone up 0.7% in the last quarter, those gains were just half the 1.5% average for all civilian workers.
Due to the shortage, when teachers take days off or need to enter quarantine due to the coronavirus, schools are not always able to find enough substitutes to fill the slots, North Dakota’s Lisbon Public Schools superintendent Justin Fryer told Axios.
In addition to low salaries, substitute teachers are often older or retired and are many times wary of entering high-risk areas such as classrooms amid a pandemic.
Experts say that the main way to fix the problem is through additional funding, as more significant pay increases can help recruit and retain teachers.
In addition, funding for training programs can help school support staff become teachers.
Rice stressed that "we have to rebuild a profession that has been chipped away at."
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