How COVID-19 Has Affected the Teacher Shortage Across the Country

Sanaya Gupta

     In 2018, historic protests called Red For Ed were seen all across the country. In Phoenix, Ariz., over 70,000 people participated in the event. At the time, educators demanded better teacher pay as well as better classroom funding. Now, in combination with lackluster teacher pay and underfunded classrooms, the COVID-19 pandemic is leading to even more of a crisis in teacher shortages. For example, education degrees have been becoming less popular over the years. This was observed even before the pandemic, but let’s look at how COVID has made this worse.

     According to a poll done by the National Educator Association (NEA), 1 in 3 teachers say that the pandemic has made them more likely to retire or resign early. This is largely caused by the immense stress being put on teachers right now. This can be seen at Berkley High School in California where teachers have to work during their prep time to make up for other staff absences or vacancies. As expected, long periods of this cycle will lead to exhaustion and possibly leaving the teaching field.

     The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reported 500 unfilled teacher positions. The district has over 600,000 students.

     Some school districts struggled so much that they had to ultimately move back to remote learning. This was the situation at Eastpointe Community Schools in Michigan where one quarter of the teaching staff (43 positions) were unfilled. The district made the decision to move back to online learning because they did not want substitutes who were inexperienced to teach the students.

     Substitutes seem like an obvious solution and while many school districts have begun to rely on qualified substitutes, there is a shortage in that as well. Nikki Henry, a spokesperson for Fresno Unified School District explains that only about a quarter of the 1000 certified substitutes agree to work in the district.

     In Oklahoma, Rep. John Waldron, D says, “We are facing a chronic shortage of applicants for teaching positions, and we are certifying more and more teachers on an emergency basis. This is unsustainable.”