Vitamin Teacher Deficiency

To address its teacher shortage crisis, America must provide better support and compensation.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Stacey Chen

Overworked and underpaid—that’s what America’s teachers are. It’s no wonder there’s a teacher shortage in America.

Schools throughout the United States are currently facing a shortage of 300 thousand educators and staff. Since January of 2020, around 600 thousand teachers have quit. But this shortage isn’t sudden. Over the last 10 years, there’s been a 35 percent decline in teacher education enrollment, along with a 22 percent drop from 2005 to 2018 in the number of people with or working toward attaining a bachelor’s degree in education.

The teacher shortage crisis shouldn’t be surprising. Over the last two years, the trust that the public instilled in teachers has eroded, and they are now treated with a lack of respect and dignity. Teachers have been placed under constant scrutiny by parents and legislators. In Iowa, legislators introduced a bill that would require cameras to be installed in almost all classrooms so that parents could see live streams. In Indiana, the House passed a bill that required teachers to allow parents to review all their lesson plans and curriculum so they can opt their children out of the class if they want to. It’s not shocking that teachers are now turning away from a profession that undervalues them.

Legislators and parents have also placed restrictions on what teachers can teach and even mention in classrooms, highlighting how teachers are treated as though they are unqualified to do what they know best: to simply teach. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, into law. It bans the instruction and classroom discussion of sexual orientation, gender identity, and other LGBTQ+ issues and allows parents to sue school districts for teaching material they may not agree with. Similar scenarios are playing out in other states. In Pennsylvania, Republican legislators introduced the Teaching Racial and Universal Equality Act, which aims to ban the instruction of race and gender-related concepts in schools.

Not abiding by these restrictions can result in severe consequences for teachers. In Tennessee, Matthew Hawn, a veteran teacher who taught for 16 years, was fired for giving a lesson on white privilege. In Missouri, English teacher Kim Morrison was fired for giving out a worksheet about racial privilege after the class read “Dear Martin,” a novel on racial profiling. One of the responsibilities of an educator is to teach their students to engage in the exchange of ideas and to think deeply and critically. The policing of school curriculum by parents and legislators has put an end to that aspect of education.

Additionally, teachers are grossly underpaid. As of the 2019-2020 school year, the average salary for public school teachers was $63,645. Nearly 60 percent of teachers have to take on other jobs in order to sustain themselves, even though teaching is a full-time job. Teachers should not have to resort to getting another job to support themselves, but that is their reality today.

There’s a stark contrast between how teachers at Stuyvesant are treated and how teachers in the rest of the country are. Their salaries are significantly higher, with most teachers making over $90,000. They deserve it. Teaching deserves to be a well-paid and highly respected profession. How Stuyvesant teachers are treated should serve as a model for how teachers across America are treated.

As of 2018, America trailed behind 15 countries in a survey that measured the overall amount of respect a country has for teachers. This position can be correlated with how America is also trailing behind in terms of teacher compensation. In Luxembourg, teachers make nearly two times the amount American teachers make, even after working the same number of years.

School districts have proposed unusual, creative solutions to address the teacher shortage. In Florida, DeSantis plans to fill teacher vacancies with military veterans who have no teaching certificates or bachelor’s degrees. In Arizona, degrees are no longer required for teachers. In Texas, students in some districts only need to attend school four days a week due to the lack of teachers.

The aforementioned solutions are not just unusual. They are Band-Aid solutions that do not address the larger issue at hand, only the symptoms of it. The better solution to the teacher shortage is to increase teachers’ salaries. States need to recognize the importance of investing in education and allocating more funds toward education. Teachers should be making a livable wage, especially when they are preparing the next generation for the future.

Educators have the ability to transform a barren classroom into an environment that fosters success, empowerment, and community. To address the shortage of educators, the greater issue of the shortage of proper compensation and proper support for them must be acknowledged.