By Aisha Hassim, age 13 and IndyKids staff
Teacher shortages around the United States have become a worrying trend, and many are not surprised. With a decrease in benefits and an increase in expectations, many teachers are finding that it’s not quite worth it to carry on in the teaching profession. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s at least 280,000 fewer public school teachers and staff members now than there were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
This scarcity of teachers can be attributed to several factors, one being that teacher pay does not keep up with inflation. According to the National Education Association, while average wages have gone up in the last year, because of inflation teacher salaries have actually declined by 4% in the past 10 years, with teachers spending an average of $750 out of their own pockets for student supplies.
Teachers are also experiencing a lack of support from parents and school boards. They have been facing increased scrutiny over what they are allowed to teach in their classrooms, often when it comes to issues of race and the LGBTQ+ community, with many facing disciplinary action for teaching so-called controversial topics, which has been dissuading educators from continuing in their profession.
The pandemic increased teacher workload and added to the worsening trend of teacher dissatisfaction. A survey conducted by the American Federation of Teachers in June found that 74% of those surveyed were dissatisfied with their job—up from 41% in 2020—with around 40% of those saying they will likely leave their jobs in the next two years.
Many states are now going so far as to offer increased benefits to teachers. Public schools in Des Moines, Iowa, are offering a $50,000 incentive to school staff that are nearing retirement to stay with the district through the 2022-2023 school year. Some districts are lowering requirements for teaching. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, for instance, signed a law that permits people without formal training to teach, as long as they have five years of experience in a field that’s relevant to the subject they are teaching. Florida is offering teaching jobs to military veterans provided they meet certain requirements.
The countrywide teacher shortage has created a desperate demand. Education Week found that the number of students who completed a teacher education program has declined by nearly a third over the last 10 years. With this decline in undergraduates pursuing education degrees and teachers leaving their underpaid jobs to work in more lucrative industries, we are left wondering: Who will be teaching us in years to come?