The Myth of the Continuing Teacher Shortage | Wender Mind Kids

The Myth of the Continuing Teacher Shortage

“Many teachers have left the profession and pursued other jobs of various kinds because they could earn more money. Often the best teachers are those who left the profession because they could earn exceptional salaries elsewhere.” (H/T Tom Gantert.)

The above quote is from the front page of the April 16, 1920 issue Charlevoix County Herald, a Michigan newspaper. And history has repeated itself over and over again across the country for the past 102 years. Just a few of the many recent examples: In June 2021, the National Education Association warned us that “Educators are ready for the fall, but teacher shortages are looming.” We were told in September 2021, “Teacher shortages are affecting education nationwide.” The Epoch Times In May 2022, alarm bells went off: “US schools are facing a mass exodus of teachers who will not return this fall.” in K-12 schools because educators are rarely assisted the way other professions recruit and retain staff.” And NBC reported in June 2022 that Joe Biden “wants to fix the nation’s teacher shortage.”

So it seems that we are indeed in the middle of a serious crisis, right?

Not correct. There is absolutely no major teacher shortage in the US, and actual data puts things into perspective. Researcher and economics professor Benjamin Scafidi found that between 1950 and 2015, the number of teachers grew about 2.5 times as fast as the number of students. But even more outrageous is the fact that other educational workers—administrators, teaching assistants, counselors, social workers, etc.—gained more than seven times the increase in students. Scafidi added that despite the surge in staffing, student academic performance has stagnated or even declined in recent decades. According to the latest data from 2019, Scafidi’s figures are still correct. As Heritage Foundation scholar Lindsay Burke notes, public school teachers across America today “represent only half of all educational jobs.”

While it is true that there may be a shortage of teachers in certain districts or shortage of teachers in certain subjects, there are simple solutions to these problems. By cutting some of the excessive non-teaching staff, districts would have more money to attract worthy men and women to the profession. You could even pay talented people bonuses to attract them – subject to the approval of the local teachers’ union, of course.

Additionally, if a school district is experiencing teacher shortages, the state could help by lowering barriers to entry. For example, teacher qualification could be made more flexible. We could certainly eliminate our mostly useless educational schools as an entry point. As I document here, I spent much of my school years learning things like sociocultural identities, institutionalized discrimination, and anti-racist math. And that was in the 1980s — well before the equality- and gender-mad, emotion-based progressive worldview had completely engulfed our colleges.

But isn’t it true that teachers leave the profession more often than other professions?

Again negative. Actually the opposite is the case. As Mike Antonucci writes, “They are leaving their jobs at lower rates than almost everyone else.” In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that teachers’ quit rates are lower than any other job category except federal employees. Antonucci also issues an important clarification. “’Resignations’ include those who left their current job to take another job. So if a teacher leaves District A for a higher-paying position in District B, she resigns and counts in the statistics. If we examine layoffs without examining new hires, we only get half the picture.”

It’s also worth noting that one of the subtexts behind the hyperventilation about the alleged teacher shortage is that “class sizes are going to explode,” and everyone knows students benefit from smaller classes, right?

Well no. In 1998, Hoover Institution senior fellow and economist Eric Hanushek published the results of an impressive review of class-size studies. He examined 277 separate studies on the effects of teacher-student ratio and class average on student achievement and found that 15% of the studies found an improvement in achievement, while 72% found no effect at all, and 13% found a reduction in grade Size had a negative impact on performance. While Hanushek admits that in some cases children might benefit from a small class environment, there is no way to “describe a priori situations where reduced class size is beneficial”.

While teachers may not leave their schools, students certainly do. A report released on May 31 by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that from fall 2019 to fall 2020, total public school enrollments for preschool through grade 12 increased 3% from 50.8 million to 49.4 million student has declined. (The number of public school teachers decreased by only 1,881, or 0.06%, over the same period.) Per education week, “The decline has wiped out a decade of growth by bringing public school enrollment back to 2009 levels. According to the report, it was the largest drop in a year since 1943, when schools were operational in the middle of World War II.” According to the Return to Learn Tracker, 19 of 46 states will have enrollment in public schools by 3% from 2020 to 2022. or more declined; only five states reported net gains.

And where are the public school leavers trained now?

During the 2020-21 school year, charter school enrollment increased 7%, the largest increase in years, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Homeschooling has more than doubled nationwide since 2020 and shows no sign of slowing down, even though most of the Covid madness has subsided. The Census Bureau reports that the number of homeschooling families remained steady at about 3.3% between 2012 and 2020. But as of May 2020, about 5.4% of U.S. households with school-age children reported being homeschooled. And by October 2020, the number rose to 11.1%. Meanwhile, the number of Black families choosing to home school has nearly quintupled in that time, from 3.3% to 16.1%.

According to policy experts Jason Bedrick and Ed Tarnowski, about 608,000 students used a voucher, tax credit scholarship or Education Savings Account (ESA) to help their children’s education in the 2020-21 school year. In all, 19 states created seven new programs and expanded 23 existing programs in the 2020-21 school year.

In any case, blind to the actual need for fewer teachers, the shortage alarmists are not giving up and are constantly developing new approaches to advance their agenda. In February 2022, the National Education Association released the results of a survey that found that “55 percent of educators are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.” The NEA claims this is due to the fact that teachers are “exhausted and angered” by the Covid fallout and are “under an unprecedented level of strain”.

But now that the Covid threat has subsided, I strongly suspect these will not even come close to 55% stopping. If for no other reason, teacher health care and other lavish perks are too juicy to throw away.

The teachers unions are talking about the wrong shortage to put more money into education and the media is doing it either because they are genuine believers or just can’t resist a headline falling to heaven. But the citizenry must resist the gossip. As former President of the National Council on Teacher Quality, Kate Walsh, recently wrote, “Nothing is more detrimental to teacher quality than the threat of teacher shortages, and only wildfires spread faster.” And amazingly, those wildfires have been raging for over a century now.

This article was originally published on FrontPageMag.


Larry Sand, a former homeroom teacher, is the nonprofit’s president California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information on professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views expressed here are solely his own.