Teacher organizations discuss school staffing concerns

Columbia, SC (WOLO)  — As the school year approaches, many teachers face numerous concerns along with the excitement of a new year.

Staffing shortages are the biggest concern for many school districts. According to the Center for Educator Recruitment and Advancement, there were over 1,100 teacher vacancies across South Carolina as of this February. Currently some districts still have over 100 vacancies to fill.

According to Patrick Kelly with the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association, the number one in-school factor on achievement is the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Kelly says a teacher shortage hurts students and teachers. “That’s a detriment to our students. It’s also a stressor on our educators. Because for every unfilled vacancy somebody is picking up that slack. Whether that means larger class sizes or giving up planning time. And those factors can eventually become a self-fulfilling cycle as teachers begin to burn out from additional vacancies.”

Steve Nuzum with S.C. for Ed agrees. He says that while other topics regarding education might get more attention politically, staffing shortages should be considered the biggest concern. “Those are real problems. Whatever else is going on with some of the hot button topics that keep coming up–none of it is going to be solved if we don’t have enough teachers.”

Both Nuzum and Kelly agree that the current climate teachers face have led to this shortage. “We don’t have a shortage of people who in theory want to teach, we have a shortage of people who are willing to do it under the current conditions,” says Nuzum.

Kelly previously worked for the U.S. Dept. of Education. Kelly found that teachers usually leave the profession over one of four reasons, saying, “In talking to teachers across the country, the four biggest factors that came up is lack of respect, lack of time, lack of support and professional autonomy, and inadequate compensation.”

This year the General Assembly included a proviso to create a Teacher Recruitment Retention and Advancement Task Force. “I’m hopeful that the task force will be able to develop some real concrete policy solutions that the General Assembly can then translate into action,” says Kelly.

The task force must submit their findings to the General Assembly by May, 2023.

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