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Maryland School Districts Navigate Teacher Shortage


Thursday, October 13, 2022   

Maryland is part of the national trend of school districts struggling to meet student needs with a teacher shortage made worse by COVID.

More than 5,500 Maryland educators left the profession this year, according to the State Board of Education. Economists point to the gap between what teachers are paid compared to their peers with similar education.

Economic Policy Institute research said in 1979, teachers made 7% less than those peers, but this year, the pay gap has grown to 23%, a record high.

Heidi Shierholz, president of the Economic Policy Institute, citing 300,000 public education vacancies nationwide, said the issue boils down to two factors.

"What's happening is that it's becoming more and more difficult to find teachers, and other education personnel, who will take those jobs under current working conditions and at current wages," Shierholz explained.

In addition to schools having to do more work with fewer people, teacher turnover is expensive.

The Learning Policy Institute reported recruitment, hiring and training is estimated to cost between $9,000 and $21,000 per educator, and fewer people are entering the profession. In Maryland, total enrollment in teacher preparation programs has declined by one-third since 2012.

The American Federation of Teachers released a report in July with recommendations to fix the teacher shortage. They include reducing the focus on standardized testing, reducing paperwork, lowering class sizes, and providing living wages.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said while the profession was never especially well-paid, the joys of teaching once outweighed the negatives.

"What we used to have is a lot more intrinsic joy about teaching and learning," Weingarten recounted. "A lot of that changed in the No Child Left Behind, 'no test was bad' kind of process, that made us fixate on tests as opposed to fixating on children."

The Learning Policy Institute reports in Finland and Singapore, around 4% of teachers leave the profession annually, mainly to retire. In the U.S., the teacher attrition rate is about 8% a year, with two-thirds leaving for reasons other than retirement, up from about 5% in the 1990s.

Disclosure: The American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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