WASHINGTON — The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing more than 3 million educators, today released a white paper outlining research-based solutions to help mitigate the educator shortage crisis gripping the nation’s public schools. The report provides a wide variety of long-term strategies and solutions that are effective at recruiting and retaining educators and, most importantly, reflect the needs and priorities of educators themselves.
The release of the white paper by the nation’s largest labor union comes as staffing shortages continue to plague schools. NEA President Becky Pringle called the educator shortages “a five-alarm crisis,” urging school districts and lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels to put students and their needs first by implementing research-based sustainable solutions. Earlier this year, a nationwide survey by the NEA revealed that 55 percent of educators are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.
“Every student, no matter their race, ZIP code, or background, deserves caring, qualified, committed educators. And every educator needs our fierce support to inspire imagination, curiosity, and a love of learning as well as to provide the skills students need to thrive and pursue the jobs and careers they want,” added Pringle. “Too often people want a silver bullet solution or will implement a Band-Aid approach. These shortages are severe. They are chronic. And the educator shortages that are gripping our public schools, colleges and universities will only be fixed with systematic, sustained solutions.”
A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education indicates that more than half of the public schools surveyed in its School Pulse Panel started the 2022-23 school year understaffed. Nationwide approximately 360,000 fewer people are working in public education than before the pandemic, according to August 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. An NEA analysis of BLS’s Current Employment Statistics data reveals that pre-K-12 public education will not return to pre-pandemic employment numbers until August 2032 if the job growth rate of the last 12 months, about 3,000 per month, is maintained.
The white paper features educators, in their own words, on how the educator shortages have affected their students, their colleagues, their schools and their communities.
“Across the board, there have been significant drops in the number of applications for open positions in my school district. We have been unable to fill certain positions like special education, media specialist, and gifted education. But even subjects that have been relatively easy to attract teaching candidates are going unfilled. In my 26 years of teaching, I have never seen anything like it. This is unprecedented for us,” said Dan Greenberg, a high school English teacher working in education for 26 years in Sylvania, Ohio.
The good news is that we can put public education back on the right track. In this white paper, NEA discusses factors necessary to achieve these goals, such as competitive pay and benefits, student debt forgiveness, increased funding, mental health resources for staff, and creating better working conditions through collective bargaining agreements and more teacher input into the curriculum and school resources.
If implemented, the solutions put forth in this white paper could help to fundamentally restructure our public education system into one that is inclusive, supportive, and helps our kids thrive. This report presents long-term strategies and solutions that have had proven success in specific schools, districts, and states.
Lerenda Dixon is one of 15 educators featured throughout the white paper. Dixon, who has taught fifth-grade science and math in McComb, Mississippi, recently received the state’s largest pay increase in more than three decades. The average salary for a Mississippi schoolteacher is $46,862, the lowest in the nation.
“Teaching has not just been a job; it has been a calling. Educators are the gateway to every profession that exists. We are parents, comforters, friends, disciplinarians, protectors, and educators on any given day. We plant seeds that yield a harvest of innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, and future leaders — the list is infinite,” said Dixon, who has taught for more than 15 years. “Our local, state and national elected leaders must acknowledge and respect the sacrifices and struggle that educators face every day. Education must become a priority at all levels of government to preserve our planet and the future of our existence.”
Find out more at www.nea.org/solutions
Follow on Twitter at @NEAToday and @BeckyPringle
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.