Dr. Hans Andrews is the Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership through Olney Central College in Olney, Illinois. He is a former president of the college. He also served as Dean of Instruction at Illinois Valley Community College and Vice President for Community and Student Services at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was an adjunct teacher for Illinois State University and a business teacher-counselor in two secondary schools.
A recent RAND survey of teachers who voluntarily left teaching during the pandemic found a full 64% of respondents said their pay wasn’t sufficient to merit the risk or stress. Offering more competitive compensation is an important strategy for both retaining current teachers and recruiting new ones.
Tara Kini: Chief of Staff and Director of State Policy at the Learning Policy Institute
Teachers across the world are in shortages at this time. A recent check in several countries showed the following shortages reported in early 2022-2023:
Australia: Positions open used to draw 40, 50, or 60 applications. The last physical education position drew one application. Some parts of the country began offering payments to student teachers so they could continue to completion of their degrees. Retention bonuses have been suggested by the Australian Education Union in Victoria to help keep experienced teachers. Victoria had 900 positions still opened at the opening of school. Individual school districts were offering up to $10,000 bonuses to attract teachers to their districts.
In their National Teacher Workforce Action Plan the two top considerations needed immediately are listed as (1) keeping teachers and (2) elevating the profession.
Africa: In a UNICEF report titled ‘FOR EVERY CHILD’ was highlighting the need to overcome what is reported as the worse teacher shortage in the world at this time. The report suggested that by 2030 there would be the need for 6.1 million teachers at the primary level.
European Nations: Teacher shortages have been labeled a ‘staffing disaster’ due to several factors. Teacher studying hours have been cut, class sizes are increased, and recruitment is falling significantly behind.
Over 80,000 teaching position were open yet in September of 2022 in the combined countries of Germany, Hungary, Poland, Austria, and France. Germany alone recorded 40,000 some openings. Poland stood at 20,000 and the immigrants from Ukrainian put much additional pressure on their school systems.
In the UK the concern from recent surveys showed some 30 percent of their academic position people plan to stop within the first five years of their careers.
India: Studies estimate there are one million or more teacher shortages in the country. More than 5 lakh (1 lakh is equal to 100,000) shortages exist in elementary schools and 14 percent of secondary school are lacking in the 6 prescribed teachers needed. It is worse in the rural areas. In addition, there are many unqualified teachers working in all sectors. Burnout, low pay and/or no contracts exist. Forty-two percent were working without a contract in public schools and 69 percent in private schools. The 2021 UNESCO report found 1.1 lakh schools (110,000 schools) were staffed with one teacher only.
United States: The National Education Association’s latest survey summarized that there were close to a 300,000 teacher shortage in the U.S. The following states provide a ‘sampling’ of these shortages at the start of the 2022-23 school year:
- Alaska: Over 1,100 opening out of 7,400 teaching positions.
- Arizona: Seven years of shortages with 9,600 open positions.
- California: Reported 100,000 positions were in need of fully qualified teachers.
- Florida: A total of 4,442 vacancies reported.
- Minnesota: A total of 84 percent of schools, both public and charter, had openings.
- New Mexico: 1,344 vacancies reported. Dr. Greg Rockhold, a school superintendent in New Mexico, pointed out that when there are 700 teachers short it equates to 17,500 students without a licensed teacher.
- New York: The need was 180,000 openings would need to be filled in the next decade.
- Nevada: 1,400 teachers were needed.
Funding for teacher salaries is a worldwide phenomenon at this time in history. Almost every study made on teacher shortages low teacher salaries were near the very top. There is now also a strong concern of many more leaving the profession now and in the next few years. Many teachers are working extra hours out of schools now and/or take on second jobs in the evenings and/or weekends to make a living.
The Teacher Salary Project in the United States has been pushing for a $60,000 US beginning salary for entering teachers. This has recently become a proposal that in now in the United States House and Senate being discussed. Whether it gets legislated soon or not will take time and much more discussion and debate.
One school district in Oregon just passed the $60,000 US beginning salary. Their concern now is how to fund it as well as all the other teacher salaries for other than beginning teachers. This will be a challenge for this school district and all others in the months and years ahead. The following is a proposal that should be considered in the US and many other countries. There will need to be local adaptations to this salary improvement proposal by each country.
Bonding for Salaries
School districts across the U.S. often use bonding as a way to cover expenditures that accrue and cannot be met with their yearly budgeted funds.
How Bonding Works:
A Bond Accountability Commission* describes bonding for school districts as follows:
A very common way a school district may borrow money is to issue a bond which works like a loan and ask taxpayers for a Bond Levy, or an increase in property taxes. The increased amount of taxes pays back lenders or bond holders and the interest on the loan.
It is not unusual for School districts to use bonding as a ‘short term loan’ to borrow money to pay for major facility renovations and/or new buildings. They also use it to purchase classroom equipment, furniture, and new technology. Most of these are considered short-term projects. Once the bonded funds are running low with no long-term funding found, bonding should and can be repeated.
Teacher shortages are in a crisis or a near crisis situation in most places around the world. A number of the countries where the shortages are very large and growing have been brought to the forefront in this article.
There are a number of issues that are causing these shortages. Low salaries, difficult working conditions, burnout, lack of administrative and/or community support are those most often mentioned.
The focus here is on salaries as they are the most mentioned reason teachers have left or are planning to leave their school districts. How to adequately raise teacher salaries to a ‘living’ wage is seldom found in the literature or proposals on how to overcome shortages. The Teacher Salary Project in the U.S. has worked hard in recent years to have legislation changed to make it happen.
A fairly commonsense proposal was outlined above on utilizing ‘bonding’ for a short-term solution. Bonding can be for a 3- or 4-year period or longer. Educational institutions and government officials must come to grips with this shortage and appropriate funding to raise these salaries in almost every country. Bonding offers an immediate means to get the process started. Long-range solutions, however, will solve the problem and offer the stability needed in the years ahead.
Mentioned above on the impact of even a low teacher shortage of 700 teachers can affect over 17,000 students makes clear what the outcome of the crisis becomes.
Our elementary and secondary school students are waiting for us to provide the professional teachers they need now!
*School Financing Basics — Bond Accountability Commission at www.bondaccountability.org/basics