While many states have worked to increase teacher pay, benefits, and offer educators additional perks to lure them into filling vacant positions Virginia school districts are experiencing difficulties ensuring that every classroom will have a teacher this fall. The ongoing teacher shortage has caused various districts to consolidate classes, rely on substitutes, and even shut down. Without the proper staff, schools cannot possibly meet students’ needs and face losing their accreditation.
The Fairfax County Public Schools recently sent out a letter to parents explaining the situation. As it stands, the district is still 3% understaffed on teachers. The school year is set to begin at the end of this month, and although the teacher shortage is highly impacting the district’s ability to fill positions, the superintendent noted that his administration is working to fill all remaining vacancies.
While the national teacher shortage is surely a main reason for the staffing issues, the underlying causes may be connected to the school’s politics as well. Plenty of educators have left the public education system in protest of a federal initiative to insert identity politics into classroom practices. The Fairfax County Public Schools specifically came under fire for allowing pornographic reading materials into school libraries.
Parents expressed their concerns and grew outraged at the school’s lukewarm response. Although families fund public schools with their tax dollars, the district only temporarily removed the inappropriate mature content from their libraries for a short period. After further examination, the school board reinstated the explicit content because it promoted LGBTQIA2S+ culture. In the name of “diversity and inclusion,” the schools have continued to allow graphic sexual content to be distributed to minors despite backlash. Teachers recognizing the shortage are likely to seek out jobs in districts that have better working relationships with parents in order to avoid future conflicts and burnout.
The teacher shortage has given quality educators who remain in the profession their choice of which districts they wish to work with. With less competition, educators can take their time deciding just what school is right for them. Districts with better community relations are often more appealing because students are better able to connect with teachers when families support the lessons they are being taught.
As many school officials and political leaders continue to blame the pandemic as a scapegoat, teachers cannot ignore the growing distrust between parents and the public school system. The teacher shortage was raging before the lockdowns, and excessive pandemic protocols only worked to reveal the many conflicting ideologies that have surfaced between parents and education officials. Many educators have been thrust in the middle and forced to join powerful teachers’ unions whether they agree with these political forces’ policies or not. It is an escalating situation that has led to a mass exodus from the education system and encouraged teachers to quit or retire early if they disagree with current Department of Education policies.
The Fairfax County Public Schools are rife with scandal and strained teacher-parent relations. This has a serious effect on the community which is likely to further influence the teacher shortage. Whether the district acknowledges how damaging one-sided political protocols can be to campus culture or not, they do not have enough teachers for the 2022-2023 school year and that is a problem that must be remedied quickly.