High Demand Drives Teacher Vacancies in Parts of U.S., But American Rescue Plan Offers HopeAmerican Rescue Plan is easing the burden on local school districts and augments local efforts to make up for teacher shortages resulting from poor working conditions and low salaries in some regions.

By Main Street Sentinel Staff

It’s back-to-school in the U.S. But as the fall semester commences for 2022, some school districts – those in rural districts or in states with lower-than-average teacher salaries – have found themselves wanting for teachers, particularly in math and special education and starting semester with open positions. This has sent principles and school officials scrambling to fill vacancies and attract teaching talent.

This situation continues to be alarming for officials and parents alike.

But Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association, told the New York Times, that all was not lost. “We are, in fact, making progress with respect to the educator shortage” she said, adding that the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March 2021 was helping to address discrepancies in pay and funding for districts worst affected.

Moreover, while some recent surveys have claimed teacher shortages in up to three-quarters of schools across the U.S., leaving many districts unable to fill positions, the picture is uneven, as not every district suffers from shortages.

In fact, experts suggest that the pandemic has worsened already existing inequities in teacher distribution and quality with rural schools and those serving more students of color and low-income families being the worst affected. In states like Arizona, with teacher’s salaries lower than the national average, some school districts have begun their semesters with many teaching positions unfilled as potential hires are lured away to neighboring states with higher teacher salaries and better working conditions.

But in Virginia, for example, where salaries are higher than the national average, the number of teaching positions has, in fact, expanded in comparison to last year, adding hundreds of new teachers and teaching assistants.

For the last two years, the American Rescue Plan has helped to offset these inequalities in teacher availability by providing relief for school districts that have struggled to pay teachers adequate salaries and thus retain talent.

In addition, some school districts have gotten creative in attempting to lure teachers to open positions offering 4-day work weeks. In Missouri, a state with one of the lowest salaries for teachers, 25 percent of school districts have adopted a four-day schedule hoping to lure teachers with the promise of greater free time and a condensed teaching schedule. These 4 day school weeks have become common in states like New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho and South Dakota. Nevertheless, it remains unclear how beneficial this change is to students’ achievement.

For the time being then, it’s up to congress and the ingenuity of school administrators to help smooth the gaps in teacher distribution.