School Districts Struggle with Teacher Shortage

by Cheikh Lo ‘24

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated a national teacher shortage across the United States with some regions of the country struggling more than others. As teacher vacancies are increasing, many school districts reported throughout the summer that they are unable to find and hire qualified teachers for this current school year.

Leading into the school year, many districts, including MCPS, scrambled to hire teachers to fill needed positions. According to the New York Times, some large districts were trying to fill as many as 1,000 teaching positions. State and district-level reports from across the United States revealed staffing gaps remained wide open as summer winded rapidly to a close. Particular areas of need for teachers included special education and math.

On the homepage of its website, MCPS has kept a running tab of its efforts to fill teaching positions. Currently, a prominent box on the page proclaims: “Apply today so that you can be part of one of the best school systems in the nation! MCPS Now 99% Staffed for 2022-2023 We still have open positions.” The Washington Post reported that right before the school year started, MCPS was struggling to find teachers to fill about 500 teacher and support staff vacancies. Even so, MCPS is planning on maintaining its class sizes of approximately 32 students per class in most high schools.

According to the publication The Hill, pandemic stress led to a significant number of teachers taking early retirement. An ongoing reason for the lack of teachers is low paying wages, especially in certain states and in many rural areas. As a result of such factors, The Hill stated that fewer undergraduates are pursuing education degrees. The Washington Post also reports that teachers feel unsatisfied with the lack of credit their job is given, which is another potential reason for the teacher shortage. A more recent reason for teachers leaving the profession, according to the Washington Post, is that teachers in some parts of the country are facing political pressure about what they are permitted to teach and say about social issues.