Breaking News
More () »

Teachers union offers long-term solutions for nationwide teacher shortage

According to the official state vacancy report by the Virginia Department of Education, as of this summer, the Commonwealth had 10,499 essential vacancies.

NORFOLK, Va. — The National Education Association said to keep teachers in the classroom, changes have to be made.

Nationally, educators are leaving the profession in record numbers.

According to a survey by the NEA, 55% of educators are considering leaving the classroom earlier than planned. That number is on top of the holes school divisions are already trying to fill.

"Every single person has a stake in this," said Helen Pryor, president of the Education Association of Norfolk.

According to a Virginia Education Association report, as of this summer, the Commonwealth has 10,499 essential vacancies and about 5,000 support vacancies.

RELATED: School divisions facing a varied range of vacancies amid new academic year

Kathleen Slinde, president of the Virginia Beach Education Association, said changes must be made.

"We’ve got to make this a more attractive and competitive career path," Slinde said.

The NEA released a 45-page report aimed at providing long-term, research-based solutions to the teacher shortage.

The teacher’s union, which represents three million educators, said solutions like competitive pay and benefits, student debt forgiveness, increased funding, mental health resources for staff and better working conditions through collective bargaining would make differences for years to come.

Something Pryor agrees with.

"That’s why we’ve wanted collective bargaining for so long. Give us a seat at the table. We have this knowledge," she said.

Slinde agrees that teachers having more input is vital.

"If you don’t have the people doing the work having a voice in the decisions that are made, then you aren’t going to progress." 

The report by the NEA also said nationwide approximately 360,000 fewer people are working in public education than before the pandemic.

If the current growth rate stays the same, they say pre-K-12 public education will not return to pre-pandemic employment numbers until August 2032.

Pryor said school divisions can go even further in addressing the problem by giving additional aid to high-poverty schools, lifting the support cap and investing more than just money in community schools.

Slinde added work must be done to create not only manageable workloads for teachers but also sustainable workloads.

In the beginning of September, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed an executive directive to help address the shortage.

RELATED: Gov. Youngkin addresses teacher shortage through new executive directive

The directive aims to create an easier pathway to teacher certifications, allowing retired teachers, educators from other states, career switchers and even veterans to get in the classroom faster. It will also create a teacher apprenticeship program with help from the Department of Labor.

The directive will also expand childcare opportunities for teachers.

Youngkin said he is targeting recruitment efforts towards communities that need it most, with incentives like sign-on bonuses and "coordinating teacher recruitment and retention dollars to maximize teacher benefits."

He also called for more frequent and comprehensive data on exactly why teachers are leaving the profession completely.

At the time, both Slinde and Pryor said a lot of those efforts are coming too late.

They said most of the problems boil down to poor pay and a lack of respect for teachers.

Now, NEA said failing to address educator shortages in a meaningful way has led to negative effects on students, communities, schools and districts.

"A qualified teacher in each and every classroom. They’re entitled to that," said Pryor.

Read the entire NEA report here.

Before You Leave, Check This Out