Public school employment is now at its lowest level since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“Teacher Shortage Compounds Covid Crisis in Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 16). Although the pandemic is largely responsible, it is not enough to explain what is occurring.
Burnout and demoralization have been slowly building for years, as the demands made on teachers have shown no signs of abating. As a result, the pipeline of college students studying to become teachers has been unable to keep pace with retirements and attrition.
I think the situation will only get worse. The classroom has become too stressful for even the most dedicated teachers. Nevertheless, there are those who persist in arguing that teachers are overpaid. I submit that substantial raises will be insufficient to recruit and retain the best and the brightest to the classroom.
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2 Replies to “Worst teacher shortage since 2000”
There are also generational trends at work here.
1. Boomers: The Boomers were the big bulge in the generational pipeline and by now virtually all of the Boomers who were teachers have retired.
2. Women: For many years — through at least the 1980s and probably later — societal expectations tended to restrict professional opportunities for women to teaching and nursing. Today, of course, professional opportunities for women are pretty much as wide open as for men. So, young women who would in the past have opted for teaching are now opting for other professions.
3. Gig employment opportunities: There is a lot more gig employment today than there was 20 or 30 years ago. For some people, a major appeal of teaching is the hours/work year — teaching gives (or seems to give) teachers an early quitting time, weekends free, and a lot of vacation time that coincides with when kids are out of school. In the pre-gig economy, many/most jobs required hours that interfered with parenting or other non-job activities. With the growth of the gig economy (and work-from-home), there are more jobs that allow the worker to enjoy more flexible hours. So, people who might have gone into teaching for the hours/work year now have other options.
Of course, I agree with you that the demands on teachers are much greater today and that teacher status is generally lower today. Also agree that just raising teacher salaries will not help much, at least not unless the raises are pretty large.
Labor Lawyer: There’s no question that employment opportunities for women today are far greater than in decades past. That alone may account for the dwindling number of college grads making teaching a career. But I think teachers overall are no longer respected as they were when I was a student.