LaborPress

Boston, Mass.After seven months of meeting, listening to members, and sharing our on-the-ground experiences, the AFT’s national Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force—made up of 25 leaders from state and local affiliates across the country—released a report, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? which was considered at the union’s biennial convention; the report outlines targeted solutions to ensure educators have the tools, time, trust, and training they need to do their jobs and to stay in their jobs.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 300,000 teachers were leaving the profession each year, and schools were also facing persistent shortages among the school support staff who play such a vital role in every child’s school day. The pandemic only made things worse.

“Teachers and school staff have been struggling for years with a lack of professional respect; inadequate support and resources; subpar compensation; untenable student loan debt; endless paperwork; and a culture of blame that weaponizes standardized tests to attack public schools and public school teachers,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And then came COVID. The pandemic, combined with the political culture wars, made the last two years the toughest in modern times for educators. On top of all of that, the unthinkable happened again, when gun violence took the lives of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.”

“Why do we have a teacher shortage? Because we have a shortage of respect for educators. A shortage of professional working conditions allows teachers and other staff to do their best for their students. We have a shortage of pay for what is arguably the most important job in the world. No wonder teachers’ job dissatisfaction is up 34 points since the start of the pandemic. The teacher shortage is the direct result of the shortage of conditions, respect, and pay—and we are not going to fix the one without fixing the others.”

“We don’t know exactly how many of those considering leaving education actually will leave,” added Weingarten. “But we do know that when asked, ‘Would you recommend the profession to a prospective new teacher?’—74 percent of teachers would most likely not recommend it. We need to reverse these numbers and address the root causes that are driving so many talented staff and educators away from this profession when they have never been needed more. That’s why the AFT convened this task force—what’s probably the most important task force in our history—because no one knows better where the problems lie, and how to fix them, than the people who work in schools every day. They can guide us to solutions—if policymakers will listen.

“School districts across the country are facing dangerous staffing shortages because they are unable to attract and retain educators. Despite the pure heroism our teachers and schools have shown during the pandemic, too many communities are not investing in public education. We know how to reverse this trend. Our responsibility is to make it happen. Our students are depending on us,” said Michael Mulgrew, task force co-chair and president of the United Federation of Teachers.

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