There's a Teacher Shortage Hitting Our Schools—Here's What To Expect When School Starts

In the last year, many teachers have left the profession and districts across the U.S. are grappling with an ongoing teacher shortage. There are ways to prepare for the impact.

Students around the country will be returning to school this month and next.

Many teachers will not.

Though it's unclear how many educators have left the profession—temporarily or permanently—in the last year, districts and states around the U.S. are grappling with an ongoing teacher shortage.

A recent story in The Texas Tribune pointed to a range of issues behind the shortage in the Lone Star State. The pandemic—and fights over masking and remote learning—was part of it. But school safety in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, low pay, and long hours were also cited as reasons for educators choosing not to return to classrooms. Texas is considered one of the worst places for teachers to retire. Retired teachers haven't gotten a cost-of-living wage increase since 2004, an even greater problem in 2022 as inflation continues.

Karen Aronian, Ed.D., an education expert and former New York City school teacher, says other issues, like the youth mental health crisis and culture wars over critical race theory, are also playing a role.

"You have people who signed onto a job that used to be smiles, hugs, and apples," says Dr. Aronian. "They signed on because they cared about children. Now, they are walking into a polarized population within a school, and [teachers] have to ask themselves, 'Is this what my original intention was? Are my needs being met?'"

Colette Coleman is one of the teachers who has left the profession. She taught in Los Angeles from 2008-09 and has seen the writing on the wall that teachers needed better support for more than a decade. Coleman now advocates for changes to the education system.

Multiracial group of students sitting at desk in classroom

"The main reasons that I left were that the job was too tough, and it was underpaid," says Coleman, who leads strategy and writes for Zinc Learning Labs. "I worked at an inner-city school and had too few resources and too overcrowded classrooms. I had to work incredibly hard and well over 40 hours a week. On top of the trying working conditions, I wasn't fairly compensated."

Texas isn't the only state experiencing a teacher shortage. A January report found that some large California districts had 10% of vacancies left unfilled. The issue is so prevalent in San Diego that officials recently held an event to help parents prepare and attempt to recruit teachers to apply for open positions. Nevada and Arizona are also having problems attracting teachers. Florida is, too, and the state recently passed legislation allowing military veterans to teach even if they do not have a certificate.

The education system—and teacher salaries and benefits—have long held challenges, and there is no quick fix to the shortage. But what can parents and kids expect and do during the 2022-23 school year?

"The plan is not to panic," says Dr. Aronian. "It's to prepare."

Colette Coleman, Education Advocate And Former Teacher

The fact that education is so underfunded that teachers are forced to crowdsource their work supplies reflects how much we undervalue the profession—and our students.

— Colette Coleman, Education Advocate And Former Teacher

Attend School Board Meetings

Dr. Aronian believes many districts will increase the student-teacher ratio—anecdotally, she has heard of classrooms with nearly 40 students to one teacher. Others, like some school districts in Florida, are hiring people to be teachers even if they do not have degrees in education.

While that may keep children in the classrooms as vacancies remain open, Dr. Aronian says expanded classroom sizes can be overwhelming for teachers, limiting the individualized attention a student may get and reducing the quality of education. She recommends parents email or go to a school board meeting to ask about student-teacher ratios and hiring standards. Then, find out the available resources to help students get individualized attention, such as tutors and online programming. She suggests advocating for those programs at school board meetings and to local political officials and candidates if they are not available.

Homeschooling or Unschooling

During the pandemic, some families turned to local pods, microschools, and tutors instead of remote learning.

Homeschooling comes in many forms but may include:

  • A parent or caregiver teaching one or more children from their family.
  • Parents or caregivers teaming up to provide education. One parent may teach social studies, while another works with children on handwriting.
  • Parents hiring tutors, such as former teachers, to educate their children.

Dr. Aronian says families may find others interested in homeschooling and forming a pod in community groups online or in person.

"This is the old-school method," says Dr. Aronian. "The little schoolhouse idea."

One report estimates it can cost $700 or more to homeschool one child per year. Sometimes, financial aid is available, but the cost can be a barrier for families.

If a family is considering this route amid the teacher shortage, Dr. Aronian advises they look into Education Savings Accounts. Some states offer these accounts, which may offset costs.

Rely on Other Resources to Fill the Gaps

The teacher shortage will impact children, and people in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities likely stand to lose the most. Other, low-cost community-based and online resources may help fill in the gaps in children's education. Dr. Aronian suggests looking into programming at:

  • Boys and Girls Club of America
  • YMCA
  • Local libraries
  • Head Start Programs

These resources often offer free classes, such as story time for younger children or standardized test prep and physical education for older ones. Some provide children with mentors and job training. is free if a family signs up through their local library.

What Needs to Change

There's not one fix to the teacher shortage. It's complex and the issues in education are systemic and have been brewing for years. But Coleman says efforts need to be made to reduce this shortage and future ones.

"First, I suggest giving teachers significant raises," says Coleman, who advocated for six-figure salaries in a New York Times op-ed in 2021.

Coleman adds that inflation makes the need for this salary raise even more necessary. The average teacher salary in 2019-20 was about $63,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But teacher salaries aren't the only place more funding is needed, says Coleman.

"Right now, teachers are posting classroom needs on social media, and trying to get kind-hearted strangers and celebrities to 'clear their lists,'" says Coleman. "Teachers shouldn't have to do this. Police don't have to go on Twitter to get batons, and firefighters don't post on Facebook for hoses."

Though money doesn't solve or buy everything, it shows teachers localities are invested in them and education.

"The fact that education is so underfunded that teachers are forced to crowdsource their work supplies reflects how much we undervalue the profession—and our students," says Coleman. "We need to start valuing our teachers, and in our society, we often show value through monetary investment."

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