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Pandemic threatens to exacerbate teacher shortage

New York Teacher

The ongoing pandemic and deepening recession are throwing new challenges at school districts trying to stanch teacher shortages across the country.

A potential exodus of older educators susceptible to the coronavirus and those with existing health problems may fuel already high turnover. In a recent poll, a full third of teachers said they were somewhat or very likely to leave their job this year — compared with just 8% who leave the profession in a typical year. Many substitutes also may quit. Now, new restrictions on foreign visas will make it harder for some states to import teachers from other countries to work in already hard-to-staff positions.

And for those teachers willing to return to the classroom — whether virtually or in person — pink slips may be coming later this year. The massive layoffs predicted at the start of the pandemic haven’t happened — yet. But experts say as the economic crisis decimates state tax revenue and forces states to slash budgets, it’s more and more likely the nation won’t have enough teachers to staff schools even once reopening is safe.

“Without a (federal) rescue package, the layoffs are coming, even if they’re not happening right away in September,” said Dan Goldhaber, the director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington. “Across the country, school districts are wrestling with this now.”

The Hechinger Report, Sept. 3