America is Short on Educators

A photo of an empty classroom.

Image: Shutterstock

The numbers are in and the fears are confirmed. The teacher shortage crisis is officially here. A new report by the Learning Policy Institute shows that between 2009 and 2014, teacher enrollment numbers dropped by 35%. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that the shortage is expected to continue and if student enrollment predictions are correct, the future is looking quite dismal. The National Center for Education Statistics is predicting student enrollment to increase by three million in the next decade. If things keep going the way they’re going, classrooms are going to get awfully cramped.

Once upon a time, teaching was a respectable, attractive career choice. The recent shortage crisis has people wondering: what’s changed since then? According to NPR, three things: frustration, burnout, and attrition.

The frustration is coming from a few different places: low-wages, over-crowded classrooms, mountains of paperwork, and increased violence in schools. The fact of the matter is, teaching isn’t the same as it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. Continual budget cuts have forced educators to take on more work for less pay. This is precisely what is leading to burnout.

Educators, more than anyone else, are feeling the strain of the economy. College tuition is high and teacher salaries are low. As it stands now, there doesn’t appear to be much of an incentive for college grads to pursue a career in education. Young teachers are figuring out very quickly that there are better job opportunities out there, and attrition statistics are proving it.

When it comes to attrition, many people are surprised to learn that retirement accounts for less than a third of the teachers who leave. Statistics show that teachers who work in high-poverty, high-minority schools are leaving at astronomical rates. Unfortunately, these are the schools that need teachers the most. But that’s not the full story. Administrative support, or lack thereof, was cited as one of the main reasons for teachers fleeing their jobs. Teachers are desperately lacking the assistance and encouragement they need to continue working.

On the bright side, the latest report provides the U.S. Department of Education with the information they need in order to fix the problem. Now that they know what the cause is, perhaps a solution is in store.

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