Just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, an opening for a sixth-grade teaching job sits vacant… with zero applicants.
An hour northwest of Chicago, a shortage of bus drivers, special education teachers, counselors, and paraprofessionals is forcing teachers to reexamine their workload and look outside of the profession.
Public concerns around books, curricula, and learning platforms, combined with debate over masks and vaccines, have compelled college students who intended to major in education to choose a different career path.
For the first time in history, district officials say they’re seeing teachers who have been in the profession for 20 years consider jobs outside of education.
Is it another symptom of The Great Resignation facing many sectors in America? Is this an esoteric threat to public education?
These questions compelled me to speak with education leaders about how the educator shortage is impacting their communities and what they’re doing to combat it.
Van Meter, Iowa Superintendent Deron Durflinger explains, “When the system gets attacked, it’s an attack on the individuals. There are so many challenges on both ends. You have people who are not ready for retirement. You have people in mid-career thinking about getting out. And then you have fewer students who want to be teachers. All those things have created a difficult environment.”
Durflinger says his district has struggled to recruit cooks and custodians but is treading water with teacher openings because it made strategic changes to the way in which teachers are compensated and began offering more attractive benefits. According to Durflinger, his district pays well, and they reward great teaching. But even in his rural district, they are seeing 25 applicants for an elementary school job that used to garner 100 applicants. “I have four kids. Of the two of them who wanted to be teachers, one now says they want to pursue another career,” he said.
Diana Hartmann, the Regional Superintendent for McHenry County, Illinois, sees the impact of the shortage in all the school districts in the county she serves. As the sixth-largest county in the state, McHenry has students living in both rural and suburban communities, and is combating a shortage of social workers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and counselors.
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