|Staff shortages plague districts across nation|
All across the country, school districts are posting in towns and on social media with urgent requests for applicants to fill crucial job openings. Interviews with economists, administrators, and employees reveal a complex array of factors causing the school hiring headaches; fears over health and safety, frustrations over longstanding pay gaps and inequities, and political disagreements over masks and vaccines. Some of these shortages are far more severe than usual, while others existed long before the pandemic. “When I was a principal, we had tremendous turnover among our bus drivers and the folks who staffed our cafeterias,” says Stefan Lallinger, a former teacher and administrator at a charter school in Louisiana who now serves as fellow and director of the Century Foundation’s Bridges Collaborative, which advocates for school integration and other progressive policies. “Even before the pandemic, whether we talk about bus drivers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, substitute teachers, [they] were dramatically underpaid and undercompensated for the work that they did,” he asserts, adding: “By and large people in the general population have often taken these positions for granted.” Districts and states are trying to find creative ways to respond to the needs of their current and prospective employees, including hosting job fairs, dangling bonuses, hiring internationally. This week for example, the governor of New York announced new steps to tackle the bus driver shortage, including opening new testing sites for commercial drivers trying to get their licenses and reaching out to law enforcement, military and fire departments to try to find already-qualified drivers who can pitch in. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 460,000 public education jobs were open in July, up from around 446,000 in June.