School districts across the country have reported increasing difficulty in recruiting teachers ahead of the upcoming school year, with officials blaming both the COVID-19 pandemic and political conflict over education.
Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told The Washington Post that the political situation in the United States, "combined with legitimate aftereffects of Covid, has created this shortage," adding, "this shortage is contrived."
Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, told the Post that he’s "never seen it this bad," when it comes to a dearth of teachers.
"Right now it’s No. 1 on the list of issues that are concerning school districts ... necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions," he said.
The Post notes that no national database tracks the exact number of classrooms in need of teachers, but many states and districts have reported shortages. Nevada’s State Education Association reported in early August that an estimated 3,000 teaching posts needed to be filled, and the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents reported in January that 88% of school districts had encountered "problems with teachers shortages."
Some states are trying unusual solutions to the issue. Arizona recently passed a law allowing college students to take teaching jobs. A Florida law that recently took effect provides a path for military veterans to teach in K-12 classrooms, even if they lack a completed bachelor’s degree.
Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar noted that his state has an estimated 8,000 teacher vacancies, an increase of about 3,000 from the year before, and said that he doubts if the veterans program is "really a solution."
Spar told the Post, "I think we all appreciate what our military veterans have done for our country in terms of protecting our freedoms both here and abroad. But just because you were in the military does not mean you will be a great teacher."
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