School Districts Will Do Anything for More Teachers

From a story on axios.com headlined “School districts across America will do anything for more teachers”:

School districts nationwide are turning to extraordinary measures in a desperate effort to get enough teachers in their classrooms before the academic year kicks off.

Why it matters: The teacher shortage — driven by burnout, low pay and ever-increasing demands — is a slow-motion crisis that’s happening everywhere, and there’s no easy way to reverse it.

  • The wage gap between teachers and the rest of the comparably educated workforce was about 21% in 2018. That disparity was a much smaller 6% back in 1996, according to an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, reports Axios’ Erica Pandey.

State of play: As the school year approaches, everything from eye-popping financial incentives to suspensions of licensing requirements remains on the table, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll bring in the people needed — let alone provide a good environment for students.

Des Moines Public Schools is offering a $50,000 incentive to teachers, nurses and administrators who are nearing retirement to stay with the district through the 2022-2023 school year.

  • Recipients must be 60 years old by June 30, 2023 and have a minimum of 15 years at DMPS to be eligible for the incentive.
  • At least 58 have taken the offer so far, according to records obtained by Axios.

The Dallas Independent School District recently set aside $51 million for salary increases and $52 million for retention bonuses for 2022-2023. The district’s starting pay for newly hired teachers is now $60,000 and the minimum wage for staff is $15.

  • That kicked off a recruiting arms race among school districts in North Texas, where a population boom and rising costs of living have made it difficult for some to keep up.

The Florida Department of Education announced it would issue a temporary teaching certificate to veterans “who have not yet earned their bachelor’s degree” after a new lawtook effect July 1.

  • “I sure wouldn’t want them to do something like this with my doctor,” Barry Dubin, president of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Are we going to just waive the bar [exam] for five years for veterans to practice law and see how they do?”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law in 2017 permitting people without formal training to teach in the classroom, as long as they have at least five years of experience in a field that’s relevant to their classroom subject.

  • Ducey took things a step further this year with a law eliminating the requirement that teachers have a bachelor’s degree, instead only requiring that they be enrolled in college.

The big picture: These scrambles don’t even begin to address the damage that the pandemic has already done to students’ educations, Axios’ Erin Doherty reports.

  • At the current rate, it may take years for some students to recover from pandemic-era learning loss, according to a NWEA report earlier this month.
  • “If you’re going to try to patch a hole, it’s all about making sure that the size of the patches that you’re using are big enough to cover the hole,” said Thomas Kane, a Harvard economist who has done extensive research on the pandemic achievement loss.

The bottom line: The vast majority of these staffing strategies are a stopgap, not a solution — and there’s no evidence that the teacher shortage is easing anytime soon.

Axios’ Jason Clayworth, Jeremy Duda, Ben Montgomery and Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi contributed to this report.

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