Education Secretary Says Teacher Shortage Is No Surprise

The US Secretary of Education gave a lengthy speech on the teacher shortage, to which he made note that it comes as no surprise.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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teacher shortage

There is an overabundance of issues with public education in America. But at the heart of those issues is a looming teacher shortage. Some say this mass exodus has been coming for years and years. Others say it was exacerbated by the onset of the COVID pandemic. Some even think it’s a false narrative. But to the government, it’s a major concern right now. The U.S. Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, feels this way, but he recently stated that it comes as no surprise to experts that have predicted it’s coming for quite some time. 

teacher shortage
Ed. Secretary Miguel Cardona

US News reports that the Secretary of Education recently gave a lengthy, 20-minute-long speech at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, in which his topic of focus was the mass teacher shortage crisis. Showing absolutely no surprise, the school official outlined what his personal foresight would look like in order to revamp the teaching profession to attract and retain educators down the road. Much of that focused on wages and pay, especially for positions that have proven to be historically hard to fill.

At the heart of the issue, Cardona feels that there is simply not enough pay incentive to keep teachers inside the classroom. There have, in fact, been many states this year that have negotiated starting pay rates for teachers as one way to address the teacher shortage. However, Cardona noted that simply addressing starting pay rates is not nearly enough. “We have to focus on ensuring teachers are paid liveable and competitive wages,” he added.

Across the United States, the average starting salary for a public school teacher is $41,163, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Despite that, the average starting pay rate is far lower in some states like Missouri and Montana, where teachers start off their career in education at a mere $33,000 annual salary. To put this into perspective and exemplify how disrespectful these low wages are viewed as by some, teachers are earning only about 67% of what other college-educated professionals make in the nation. All of this is likely further reason adding to the teacher shortage.

Furthermore, the secretary of education made note that pay rates are so low for some teachers, that many of them qualify for government assistance in their state. “Can you imagine that,” Cardona bellowed to signify how important it is to bring attention to pay amid the teacher shortage. Still, Cardona brought up other factors in play that are all leading to the mass exodus and signified a need to address other concerns.

The teacher shortage was culminating to a head before the onset of the pandemic, but these last few years have only made things worse. A culture war has erupted with politics being front and center in a so-called “war on education.” While lawmakers and parents call for more school transparency, teachers are often at the center of contentious battles, and they are already so burned out from the added mandates from COVID that it is no wonder many are leaving the classroom.

While some are skeptical, and many argue over what the root cause of the teacher shortage really is, there is no denying that it is happening, and could have detrimental effects on the state of public education next year. Many states had to get creative already, bringing in the national guard to teach classrooms. One state is even looking to make lawmakers fill in as substitutes. But until officials can come up with a permanent solution, more and more teachers will likely continue to leave public schools.