Public schools ‘unable to compete’ with private sector as thousands of K-12 staffers quit during back-to-school season

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The janitors, cafeteria staff and teachers seem to have one thing in common: They are fed up.

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In September, 21,700 school workers left their jobs, According to the latest government data, It includes everyone from government school teachers to watchmen. The number of K-12 school employees declined to 7,755,400 in September, from 7,777,100 in August.

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To put those figures into context: In March 2020, before the impact of the coronavirus on the US economy, more than 8 million public-school workers were in the workforce.

Nationwide, there is a shortage of 300,000 teachers and other school staff, According to the National Association of EducationLargest teachers union in the country.

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Schools are struggling to fill positions across the board, said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association. “It’s every situation in our schools,” he told MarketWatch.

“Guardians and maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals also known as teacher assistants, front-office staff, school counselors, school social workers, and then, of course, our instructional teachers,” he said.

“So it runs the gamut, everyone is struggling to fill positions across the state and across the country, and it is in all positions in our public schools,” Spar said.

Public education is one of the least recovered areas of the pandemic. Teachers reported high levels of stress in the early days of the pandemic, working long hours, low wages and dealing with technical difficulties related to distance learning.

Labor shortages in other service sectors also made it difficult to retain school workers, Spur said.

,Teachers reported high levels of stress at the start of the pandemic to deal with long working hours, low pay and distance learning. ,

With the private sector increasing profits to attract more workers, many companies are raising wages and offering better perks.

“In some cases, the share of key benefits has more than doubled from August 2019 to August 2022 advertising low-wage, in-person job postings,” according to An Analysis by Indeed Hiring Lab, Health insurance, paid time off, and better benefits related to retirement plans, wrote Annie Elizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab.

At the same time, public education has suffered Underfunding at the state level, resulting in underpaid not only teachers, but all school staff, Spar said. One 2020 study found that schools were short of $150 billion, a condition that affects 30 million K-12 students.

Case in point: Many support workers in Florida school districts are earning “poverty wages,” according to the Florida Education Association. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the “living wage” for an individual in Florida is $35,858 per year and $70,504 for a single parent with a child. Living Wage Calculator.

Spar said the public-school system “has not been able to compete” with the private sector.

As of August 2022, K-12 school vacancies in Florida were 10,771. This included 6,006 teachers and 4,765 support staff, according to the Florida Education Association’s calculations. A few weeks into the school year, some positions were filled, but the state still faces more than 5,000 vacancies for teachers and support staff, Spar said.

Last month, Chalkbeat, a non-profit news outlet covering education, talked to 80 teachers who had left the profession. Among the reasons he left: lack of respect and support, the need for higher pay, and greater job flexibility.

Ingrid Fournier, a former teacher in Branch, Michigan, who left her 25-year teaching career in 2022, told Chalkbeat: “Increased class size, reduced pay and benefits, support for teachers and administrators There has been a drastic reduction in the privatized busing, detention and relocation programs have really taken a toll as the sense of community has diminished as a result.”

,‘What keeps me up at night is how to keep schools open and operating during the pandemic and amid staff shortages.’,

Salaries for school employees vary widely. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn an average of $61,350 per year. This compares to $29,760 per year for school janitors and building cleaners, and $27,170 for dining-room and cafeteria workers.

It is even difficult for some teachers to live in the area where they work. Milpitas Unified School District Board of Education in California approved a workforce housing resolution August 23 reported that middle-income people working for the district were finding it difficult to find a place to rent close to their jobs, according to cron-tv in san francisco and a copy of the resolution provided to MarketWatch.

The district told parents through a school communication app that it had lost seven teachers over cost issues in the previous school year, and requested that parents with extra rooms rent the space to teachers. KNTV, an NBC affiliate in the Bay Area.

Such stories provide context for the vacancy rate in public education. According to separate figures provided by the American Federation of Teachers based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there were 292,000 openings in state and local government education, which includes all public K-12 and higher education, a record for August. is high.

A school district superintendent in North Carolina told MarketWatch in August that her district had zero applicants for six openings, and that was two weeks before the school year began.

A nationwide school bus-driver shortage is also affecting students’ ability to reach school on time: 88 percent of school transportation professionals and educational leaders surveyed said bus-driver shortages disrupted their transportation operations . A recent survey by HopSkipDriveA school ride-hailing company.

The survey found that around 94% of the respondents said that they lack staff ranging from teachers to librarians and administrators. “What keeps me up at night is how to keep schools open and operating during the pandemic and staff shortages,” said John French, a superintendent at the survey.

Staff shortages affect all students, but some may be more vulnerable to the effects. For example, not having enough teaching assistants could mean that there aren’t enough people to help students with special needs, Spar said.

“The teachers and staff who work in our public schools care about children and they want to do right by children. But often they face so many obstacles that they eventually give up and walk away,” he said.

(Emma Okerman contributed to this story.)


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