A massive teacher shortage has struck the United States education system. Public school districts are scrambling to fill vacant teaching positions by offering bonuses, a 4-day school week, and other perks. Despite this, varying data indicates that more than half of teachers may have already quit the profession entirely, and another large portion are planning to leave.
The education system has been struggling for years. Even going back a decade, federal data noted that 16% of teachers quit the profession on average. Those numbers have increased after lockdowns, mandates, and political moves to insert identity politics into classrooms.
The National Center for Education Statistics concluded that there were just under 3.6 million public school teachers (including charter school educators), and slightly more than half a million teachers working in private school settings during the 2017-2018 school year. Totaling approximately 4.1 million American K-12 teachers, some 1.5 million college professors were also employed in 2018. These varied from professors, to assistants, lecturers, and other related teaching positions. Altogether K-12 and post-secondary education teachers made up about 5.6 million workers serving some 76 million students.
During the pandemic, 2.4 million educators are reported to have quit the teaching profession. When factoring in retirees, layoffs, and other “separations” 4.8 million educators have left. This indicates that more than half of teachers have quit their jobs, but how many went on to other teaching positions is unknown. Regardless, it leaves a huge gap in schools which is being felt across the nation.
What’s more, a National Educators Association poll released in January of this year revealed that 55% of educators plan to leave the profession or retire early. If carried out during the next few school years this will be catastrophic for the public education system especially as districts cannot fill positions facing the current state of the worker shortage. In addition, enrollment has plummeted for K-12 schools and college universities.
It is estimated that just under two million students left the public education system during the 2020-2021 school year, and 26% of students attending college in 2019 dropped out during 2020. Teachers are facing unprecedented challenges and the added stresses are affecting their decision to quit their jobs. Despite efforts to increase teacher pay or expand budgets for state education systems, teachers are seeking more flexibility than many schools can offer.
In an effort to keep costs low while offering teachers added time off, a number of districts have successfully switched to a four-day school week. Though still considered experimental its appeal is drawing in substantial applicants. Instead of cutting hours, this model merely extends each school day to make up for the lost time. Students receive the same classroom hours, but teachers can save on their commute, and everyone involved has three-day weekends.
Whether this solution will offer long-term success is yet to be determined. For now schools desperate to employ more teachers in order to retain accreditation and properly serve students are testing new methods to draw interest and keep staff engaged. Of the 5.6 million teachers who were employed in the United States in 2018, 4.8 million have left a teaching position. While some may have sought work elsewhere, this alarming number displays much more than a teacher’s shortage. It is truly an education crisis.