Schools still short-staffed at mid-year

By Abigail Carroll, Community News Service

Vermont schools face “critical” staff shortages midway through the academic year, education leaders say, with some suggesting the state hack away at its 1,000 teacher and staff vacancies by providing loan support and reducing red tape in licensing and certification.

Before the school year, a Vermont Superintendents Association study found there were around 1,200 open jobs in K-12 schools. Little progress has been made so far: There are still more than 1,000 open positions for teachers, special educators and support staff, Vermont Principals Association executive director Jay Nichols told lawmakers.

Staff shortages were a problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the problem has been exacerbated since. 

“Fifty percent of teachers who begin (their careers) leave teaching after five years,” Colin Robinson, political director for the Vermont National Education Association, told legislators last week. 

Teachers struggle with scarce housing, low pay, pressure to focus on test scores and burnout, Robinson and others told lawmakers of the House Committee on Education on Jan. 18. 

Burnout in particular has been on the rise during the pandemic, the education leaders said, as teachers try to deal with the challenges of online classes and increased mental health issues among students and educators.

It’s not just a lack of teachers: Schools are also seeing a shortage of support staff — special educators, administrative workers, aides and more. 

“School support staff provide a significant backbone to our entire education system,” Robinson said, “from helping students access their learning inside a classroom setting so they can control and regulate their behavior, to obviously getting health and nutrition, to cleaning the schools, to actually getting to school.”

Part of the problem seems to be a lack of applicants. “Where once we had hundreds of teacher applications for elementary teaching positions, now there are times where we’ll have a dozen or so,” Vermont Principals Association executive director Jay Nichols told lawmakers. “And those are usually in our higher-paying districts.”

Couple that with the fact that nearly a third of principals have left their positions this academic year — about a 10% uptick compared with previous years, Nichols said. And there have been 18 superintendent transitions over the last fiscal year, a dozen of which saw school leaders new to the profession, according to Chelsea Myers, associate executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association.

During the committee meeting Wednesday, education leaders suggested several solutions to the shortage, including lessening the barriers to becoming an educator. They suggested offering a state loan forgiveness program to teachers who stay in Vermont for a certain number of years, along with funding support for teachers to get home loans. 

Another idea: Waiving license expenses for teachers moving from other states and bulking up the pension plan for teachers; Nichols called Vermont’s pension plan for teachers the weakest in the region.

Robinson said there are more than 1,200 teachers in Vermont serving on provisional or emergency licenses. This means they are working without full certification and may be teaching outside their subject area. Legislators could find a way to transition those educators to full credentials, he said.

One program doing just that is GrowVT-Ed, a collaboration between the Vermont teacher’s union, school districts, the state Agency of Education, the Vermont Rural Education Collaborative and Castleton University.

The program aims to help those who are on provisional licenses complete the process to full licensure. It also looks to help paraeducators obtain further credentials and to make it easier for college graduates working in other fields to switch to education.

“I think whether it’s GrowVT-Ed or other peer-review support programs that exist in Vermont, there’s a really great opportunity there,” Robinson said.

Categories: Education

10 replies »

  1. Not enough teachers. Not enough police. Not enough retail or eatery staffers. Yeah! Vermont’s “woke” policies are working just as intended….

  2. The schools are only understaffed compared to pre-Covid staffing. If one looks back in history, taking into consideration student populations, they have plenty of staff. When I went to school, the elementary grades had ONE teacher per class (some classes were big enough to split in two, but one teacher per classroom). I wonder why in the face of declining student populations the staffing numbers have continued to rise. Then consider the falling achievement scores…I see a broken system.

  3. Insane bureaucracy, hostile & grifting administrations, intolerant & sanctimonious groupthink, hostile coworkers with mental health issues, constant woke minefields, endlessly insipid meetings… and all for an income that qualifies one for welfare benefits.

    I’m mystified.

  4. FYI – according to the Agency of Education, for the 2019-20 school year, there were 23,962 teachers and paraprofessionals working in our public schools – serving fewer than 80,000 students. That’s less than a 4 to 1 student teacher ratio. But more importantly, when counting all public-school staff, from Superintendents to consultants to bus drivers, there were more than 75,500 employed in the public school system in FY 2019-20. Do the student ratio.

    Then consider that these are well-paid jobs with exceptional (and largely unfunded) retirement benefits… the cost of which will be added to future education budgets.

    And keep in mind, according to the U.S. Dept of Labor, 40% of Vermont’s workforce is employed by the heavily tax subsidized education, health, and government sectors – an insurmountable voting bloc. We don’t need more public-school employees. We need School Choice.

  5. This is about much more than just a problem with staffing. And, it is about more than COVID and the schools. It is about a system that was a chaotic and completely failing mess long before COVID. It needs a complete roto-rooting and reboot.

  6. Perhaps educators earned a degree hoping to educate rather than be political activists and throwing money into a union that uses the money for political activism or simply steals it. Ingrid Grant, Arlington Virginia Teacher’s Union charged with embezzling $410K. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan lost $95 million in FTX investment. I feel bad for the ethical and moral educators who find themselves disillusioned and scammed by their peers. Welcome to the club y’all.

  7. Throughout my schooling, my classes contained roughly 40 students each. That’s from grade school through high school. That didn’t change much when I went to college. Freshman and sophomore core requirement classes routinely were held in lecture halls holding 200+ students. It wasn’t until my last two years where I got into smaller classes, but still, many times there would be upwards of 20.

    I said that to say this:

    1. I (and all my peers) got great educations despite our class size, which was usually around 40-42.
    2. Fact is, people are having fewer and fewer kids. The obvious result of this is fewer kids in our schools, so why again do we need more teachers? Schools should be able to be run efficiently even if the staff were cut by 1/3. The whole system has become one big money pit. Standardized test scores however, continue to drop.
    3. I’m convinced that a certain percentage of teachers, despite what they say in public, don’t agree with and don’t want to teach equity, trans-gender topics, and ethnic diversity. If I were a teacher in VT, I’d move too.

    This is only my opinion. The only way to find out is to ask those who left VT, took early retirement. got out of the profession entirely or didn’t want to move here one simple question – Why?

    I think the answers would surprise a lot of people.

  8. The government run education industrial complex in Vermont has shown its priority is not academic achievement amongst the students. It’s an absolute train wreck. Stay off the train at all costs.

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