Memphis Schools Short 220 Teachers Three Weeks Before School Starts

Memphis schools are short more than 220 teachers just three weeks before school is set to go back in session.

By Erika Hanson | Published

National Teacher Unions Have Lost 200,000 Members

Memphis schools

Summer might be in full swing, but some school districts are already busy preparing for the start of the school year, which is only a few weeks away in some areas. But as primed and ready as they can be, there seems to be little officials can do about the biggest problem of all: finding teachers to fill classrooms. It’s an issue affecting schools all across the nation, but Memphis schools are utterly hopeless feeling, as school resumes in just three short weeks, but the urban city is still short 220 teachers. 

Chalkbeat recently reported that the Memphis-Shelby County School district, which educates more than 110,000 students still has at least 220 vacant teacher positions. That’s equivalent to more than one classroom without a teacher for every single school building in the massive Memphis schools district. The silver lining to this foreboding finding, however, is that it is still fewer vacancies than the district reported last year at a similar time. 

Going into the 2021-2022 school year, there were 18% more unfilled classrooms in Memphis schools. This is a positive sign that something is working in filling in retainment efforts. The recent passing of a Tennessee state law now allows retired teachers to return to the classroom without losing out on retirement benefits, which has likely accumulated to this. 

Given the fact that there were even fewer teachers available to fill classrooms last year, Memphis schools are prepared to go on with the start of school, even if it means taking desperate measures to keep classes running. Furthermore, officials are hopeful that they will be able to reel in some last-minute employees. Last year,  when the district was short 268 educators just weeks before school let back in, they were able to fill 50 positions during that time. But given the fact that more teachers were said to leave the profession this year than ever before, it may be a futile effort. 

So what will happen come the first day of Memphis schools welcoming children back if they are still short hundreds of teachers? Luckily, the district already has some plans in place. Any classes that are deemed under-enrolled will be combined. Office personnel and all substitute teachers will be called upon to fill classes. In some cases, the district said it will look into remote instruction as well. This would be done with the help of a new initiative launched by Tennessee known as Access for All, a program that allows districts to offer virtual classes for some AP high school courses. 

Further depicting how dire the situation is for these Memphis schools, state data reveals that fewer college students are entering the profession. The number of new teachers graduating has decreased by one-fifth over the last five years. This information led the state to create a Grow Your Own program that will create new pathways for those interested in getting certified to teach. 

memphis teachers

Memphis schools aren’t alone in their situation, as districts all across the Volunteer State are scrambling to fill vacant positions. Just last week, Nashville Public radio announced that more than 2,000 open teaching positions remain throughout the state. While these new initiatives are ambitious and hopeful to attract more educators, it’s not an overnight solution, and children will likely continue to suffer throughout this school year from not having adequate certified teachers in the classroom.