May 12, 2020 author Shawna De La Rosa

  • Schools may face staffing shortages when they reopen as teachers at higher risk for severe illness weigh whether to return to the classroom before a coronavirus vaccine is available, Chalkbeat reports.
  • States are beginning to outline reopening plans, despite a lack of testing and growing evidence children transmit coronavirus, and unions including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association have raised the possibility of a strike if school reopenings run counter to advice from medical experts or lack safety measures.
  • More than 18% of teachers in the U.S. and 27% of principals are over the age of 65, according to an American Enterprise Institute report, which relies on federal data from 2017-18. The AEI, a right-leaning think tank, recommends schools offer early retirement incentives and create online roles for teachers and principals who must stay home due to health risks.

Dive Insight:

Typically, districts try to hang on to staff during recessions. That will likely be difficult now, due to health and safety concerns of older teachers. Many districts will likely have to implement hiring freezes due to lost funds from the economic fallout. Districts that receive a larger portion of funding from states will be more affected than those with strong property tax bases.

Some have suggested the national education system could soon experience what New Orleans faced after Hurricane Katrina. Following the storm, teachers were laid off for four months. By the time school reopened in the fall, only a third remained in New Orleans schools, while another 18% found jobs in other districts.

Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and president of the California Board of Education, predicts districts will hire fewer teachers to replace the ones that are lost, driving up class sizes. However, more people may be drawn to the teaching profession, which may be attractive as a more stable profession.

Some are also optimistic that teacher candidates will be well-prepared for the new challenges of remote learning. In Arizona, for example, the state has 533 teacher candidates who are set to complete their teacher preparation programs this month. These student teachers continued their training during school closures, gaining valuable experience in teaching online.