Staffing struggles: Here is where teacher shortages are hitting K-12 hardest

Worsening student behavior, restrictions on instruction, harassment by parents, and pay penalties are all contributing to the problem.

Teacher shortages in the hardest-hit disciplines, geographic locations and grade levels are showing no signs of easing. In their efforts to bounce back from the disruptions of the last few years, many district leaders are grappling with significant classroom deficits as they welcome students back for what many consider to be a crucial point in K-12’s academic recovery.

According to the Florida Education Association, Kansas finds itself in its worst teacher shortage ever with as many as 8,000 teacher vacancies in the state. Across the country, the causes of the shortages are many: worsening student behavior, politically driven restrictions on instruction, harassment by parents and others, and so-called pay penalties that leave teachers with lower salaries than other professionals with similar levels of education and experience.

That pay penalty reached a record -23.5% in 2021-22, according to a recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute. “Without targeted and significant policy action—not just on teacher pay, but on school funding more generally—there can be no reasonable expectation of reversal in sight for pandemic-stressed schools and those who serve public education,” that report said.

Southern states are experiencing the most teacher vacancies, with Mississippi reporting the highest teacher-to-student vacancy rate in 2021-22,  according to an analysis by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute. The three states with the lowest vacancies were Utah, Missouri and Nebraska (42).

The following state-by-state snapshots show the full range of teachers shortages, from the manageable to the most severe*:

ARIZONA: Schools reported more than 2,200 teacher openings, mostly for K-6, according to an Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association survey, Fox10 reported.

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco USD had 210 open certificated teaching positions on Aug. 26, The San Francisco Standard reported. Overall, the state needs about 100,000 more teachers, reported.

COLORADO: State data for 2021-22 shows schools were short 5,729 teaching positions, representing about 10% of the normal workforce. Schools also had a little more than 300 principal and assistant principal vacancies and were missing more than 1,100 special service providers.

FLORIDA: English, exceptional student education, science, reading, English for Speakers of Other Languages and math are the subjects most impacted by teacher shortages, the Florida Department of Education reported in August. One of the state’s measurements was the number of positions in each discipline filled by teachers not certified in that field.

LOUISIANA: The state’s public schools are short about 2,500 teachers, Houma Today reported.

More from DA: Why K-12 leaders may not be concerned enough about enrollment declines

MICHIGAN: In 2021-22, the state reported a 15-year high in the number of public school teachers. The number of students has also declined over the last decade. However, these numbers are flipped in some districts, such as Grand Rapids Public Schools, reported.

MISSOURI: The state has 600 teaching vacancies in special education alone, according to the Springfield News-Leader.   Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently noted there were at least 600 unfilled teaching vacancies in special education.

NEBRASKA: Just about every major area of K-12—from art to counseling to math to special education—is expected to face teacher shortages in 2022-23, according to the Nebraska Department of Education.

NEVADA: Leaders of the Clark County School District, the state’s largest, say the school year will start with a licensed teacher in approximately 91% of classrooms and a bus driver for approximately 90% of routes. However, the district is still short 1,400 teachers, KTNV reported. On Aug. 29, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed an executive order Monday cutting licensing fees for substitutes and extending some provisional educator licenses for up to six months, KTNV also reported.

NEW YORK: Teacher shortages have hit two of the state’s largest districts. Hundreds of positions remained unfilled as of mid-August in the Rochester City School District while The Syracuse City School District had about 300 vacancies at the beginning of the summer, according to the New York State United Teachers union.

NORTH CAROLINA: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the second-largest district in the state, started the new school year short nearly 400 teachers on Aug. 29, ABC News reported.


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PENNSYLVANIA: There are more teachers and fewer students in the state but an analysis by The Center Square shows why there is still a shortage. A report on the website blames the large number of emergency teaching permits districts are using to fill vacancies.

RHODE ISLAND: More than 240 teachers have resigned from Providence Public Schools this year, including 35 on the first day of school on Aug. 29, WJAR reported.

TEXAS: More than 40 school districts have switched to four-day weeks in efforts to attract and retain teachers amidst the statewide shortage, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported

VERMONT: World language, health science and physical education are experiencing the biggest teaching shortages, according to the state’s Agency of Education. Vermont’s schools are dealing with shortages of librarians and media specialists.

VIRGINIA: The state Board of Education has identified 10 critical shortage teaching areas, with the top five listed as elementary education preK-6, special education, middle education grades 6-8, career and technical education and mathematics grades 6-12.

*This survey will be updated regularly as data comes in from states and districts. 

Micah Ward contributed to this report. 

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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