- Data from the U.S. Dept. of Education warns of a teacher shortage in North Carolina in all grades of math, all grades of special education, and all core subjects in all elementary school grades.
- Other states across the nation face a similar teacher shortage.
- These classes are more likely to have a long-term substitute, a teaching assistant, a teacher who is not licensed, or an educator who does not have the subject matter expertise or training to teach what they are asked to teach.
RALEIGH - The North Carolina Assoc. of Educators joined parents, students, and other advocacy groups for public education on Friday to call on state lawmakers to pass a better state budget that addresses a chronic problem of teaching vacancies in rural counties. This as the U.S. Dept. of Education describes a widespread shortage of certified teachers in key subjects across the state and nation.
Data from the U.S. Dept. of Education warns of a teacher shortage in North Carolina in all grades of math, all grades of special education, and all core subjects in all elementary school grades. Other states across the nation face a similar teacher shortage. These classes are more likely to have a long-term substitute, a teaching assistant, a teacher who is not licensed, or an educator who does not have the subject matter expertise or training to teach what they are asked to teach.
“As students go back to school, our students are more likely to be trying to learn and master these subjects with a teacher who is not qualified to teach these subjects.” said Kristin Beller, president of Wake Co. NCAE outside the NC General Assembly on Friday. “That is a shame. That is a problem that could b e avoided. That is a problem that must be fixed, and it can be fixed through a better state budget that fully funds public education and treats our educators as professionals.”
The US Dept. of Ed data comes as state lawmakers have refused to comply with two state Supreme Court orders to better fund North Carolina public schools to a level that would offer a “sound, basic education” for all students across the state.
“The House and Senate budget proposals defy a court order,” said Susan Book, the parent of a Wake Co. Public Schools special ed student. “All the while our students are left without the most critical need of a student. They are left without a teacher.”
The budget proposals passed so far virtually ignore the perennial challenge of rural districts in certain regions of NC to fill vacant but vital teaching positions and keep teachers from leaving the state or profession. NC’s Dept. of Public Instruction reported that more than 10% of classrooms in some rural counties in 2019-2020 (the latest year reported) went more than 40-days into the new school year without a licensed, permanent teacher. Person County had the state’s highest teacher vacancy rate in 2019-20, with 13.1% classrooms operating for 40+ days without a licensed, permanent teacher. Anson County had a 12.4% teacher vacancy rate, followed by Northampton, Halifax, and Vance as the five counties with the worst teacher vacancy rates..
“It’s a travesty that these children are going to have to start some classes without a teacher,” said Letha Muhammad, exec. director of Education Justice Alliance.
“We cannot compete with the tax-base of larger cities and counties to pay our teachers to stay,” said Phillip Gillis, vice-chair of the Person County School Board. “It’s bigger than just a local issue. We need all of the help we can get.”
Liz Beck, a Johnston County parent, recalled observations of her children’s first grade experience in classrooms with long-term substitutes, not certified elementary school teachers.
“I frequently had to sit in the class and teach the teacher,” said Beck, who lives in Clayton. “As a parent, it is stressful to think about what my children are missing in class with a teacher who did not know what they were doing very well.”
Samya Potlapalli, a senior at Green Level High School in Wake County, recalled a less than inspiring learning experience with a long-term substitute for one of her high school classes. “We were assigned pages to read and worksheets to complete in class, for homework, every single day,” Potlapalli said. “It didn’t take long for me or the other students to realize that tests were regurgitations of textbook sentences, so we realized that all we had to do was do the textbook work and then do whatever we wanted.”
Kristin Beller, president of Wake Co. NCAE, said the problem of teacher vacancies is more acute but more hidden in some rural counties. “This is a problem our politicians hope the press and public will not notice. The solution is a state budget with much better funding for public schools. The solution is a state budget that does not simply cut corporate taxes and ignore rulings from our state Supreme Court to better fund public schools. The solution is to pay educators as professionals across the board and across the state, so that teachers are not moving out of rural counties, and rural students are not going weeks or months without qualified teachers.”
Throughout the 2021 state budget process, NCAE has called for a state budget that:
- Pays educators as professionals, including raising pay of custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and teaching assistants to at least $15/hour like all other state employees,
- Funds more instructional support professionals - school couselors, nurses, psychologists, and social workers, and
- Funds significant school facility infrastructure improvements, including allowing voters to decide on a statewide school bond.