Chart of the Day: Teacher Retirements Surging

Source: Virginia Public Access Project

The teacher shortage in Virginia is getting worse, and one reason is that teachers retired in accelerating numbers in the 2021-22 school year. While the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) reported 4,345 retirements per year on average between the 2016-17 and 2019-2020 school years, the number leaped to 4,881 — an increase of 536, or 12.6%, in the school year now ending.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated the state teacher shortage,” comments the Virginia Public Access Project in publishing the data.

COVID undoubtedly played a role. Older teachers with fully vested retirement benefits, whose age made them more vulnerable to the virus, might well have opted for retirement as a way to minimize their risk of exposure. Others might have grown frustrated by the schools’ policy response to COVID, such as implementing remote learning and heaping on new layers of paperwork. Yet others might have wearied of the politicization and polarization of public education, both the invasive wokeness and the parental backlash to wokeness, which has grown more intense even as the COVID pandemic raged.

The graph above provides a clue as to what is going on. Mid-year retirements, as reported by the VRS, have increased roughly by half in the COVID years.

The departure of a teacher mid-year is much more disruptive than that of a teacher leaving after serving out the school year. When a teacher leaves mid-year, he or she leaves school administrators scrambling to find a replacement. Even if one can be found, students can suffer a discontinuity in learning.

The surge in mid-year departures, I suspect, is an indicator of increasing teacher burn-out. The fact that this measure remained elevated last year, even as the COVID crisis was subsiding, is alarming.

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23 responses to “Chart of the Day: Teacher Retirements Surging”

  1. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    No surprise!

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    There were 106,000 teachers working in Virginia last year. We still have 101,000 to work with. Still, nearly 5,000 is a large number. About equal to the entire teaching staff in Chesterfield County Public Schools. You might get some of the back. Critical shortage areas permits a retired teacher to come back, collect VRS, and get paid the salary for working an extra year. Not sure how a PE teacher is considered critical shortage.

    2021-2022 Ten Critical Shortage Teaching Endorsement Areas in Virginia

    1. Special Education

    2. Elementary Education PreK-6

    3. Middle Education Grades 6-8

    4. Career and Technical Education

    5. Mathematics Grades 6-12 (including Algebra 1)

    6. Science (Secondary)

    7. Foreign Language PreK-12

    8. English (Secondary)

    9. Library Media PreK-12

    10. Health and physical education

  3. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    I’m so glad to hear the “problem” white female teachers, who have been vilified for pushing white supremacist concepts, can be replaced. Hopefully school districts like Richmond, Petersburg, and Portsmouth can reload with teachers who won’t practice white supremacy and they can get those test scores back up.

  4. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    IMHO, it is not wokeness – invasive or otherwise – contributing to teacher retirements but the lack of competitive wokeness. Righties have cornered the market on the malady refusing to accept that their monopoly makes the equally woke. Puhleeze!!!!

    1. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

      Tortured reasoning.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Why risk a dismissal or forced retirement over something deemed to be “inherently ” divisive?

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m AGOG. After how many blog posts in BR have vilified teachers over Covid, CRT, DEI, “grooming”, “bad books” , “unions”, and, on yes, divisive concepts… NOW the same critics are crying the “sky is falling”!

    How many times has JAB, condemned Virginia Public Education over its restorative justice , soft bigotry, and the racial “gap AND advocated for non-public “choice” schools.

    Geeze. It’s like Alice in Wonderland on steroids!

  7. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Called my cousin yesterday and learned she had retired in April. She has been an administrator but was back in a Virginia Beach school as a principal. She actually delayed her retirement to help the school reopen and get back closer to normal through the pandemic. Those who are still covered by the original VRS contract get a pretty good deal at 30 years of service (which for most leaves time for a nice second career, in my wife’s case a private school.)

  8. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

    When we lived in California in the mid-1950s, our schools were on “double session.” The school board did not have the classrooms or the teachers to handle the number of students in the district, so half of the student body (in my school) attended from 7 to 12 and the other half from 12:30 to 5:30. The teachers taught BOTH sessions. Such a system does not seem remotely possible now (for several reasons), but it worked then.

    One other tidbit: About twenty years ago, the State of Tennessee enacted legislation that would allow school districts to “fast track” professionals (men and women who held advanced degrees and had worked for 20 to 30 years in business and industry) to pursue teaching careers in the public schools. Classroom teaching would commence immediately, and full licensure could be obtained in less than a year. Quite a few middle-aged professionals took advantage of the program. How viable it is today, I cannot say. With little or no student discipline, it doesn’t seem likely that innovation of any kind will expand the teacher rolls.

  9. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
    Virginia Gentleman

    “Yet others might have wearied of the politicization and polarization of public education, both the invasive wokeness and the parental backlash to wokeness, which has grown more intense even as the COVID pandemic raged.” Perhaps it is the opposite. Is it possible that the tip line, the book banning and the lack of wokeness among parents and politicians are what contributed to the teachers just giving up?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The truth is they are caught between two equally annoying ideological camps, unable to satisfy either and do the job they actually wanted to do (teach kids math, history, writing.) I’ve watched closer than most outsiders because of my wife’s career and it must be at the worst point ever.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Annoying? So mild mannered we are.

        1. WayneS Avatar


  10. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    If we think that the number who retired mid-year is a shock, wait to see how many don’t return, retired or not, in August. Combined with the incredibly shrinking new teacher pipelines, we are in big trouble.

  11. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    It is not too surprising that the number of teachers retiring is increasing. These are the baby boomers and we are hitting retirement age. And as Steve points out, a teacher with 30 years service (these would be the ones in the later baby boomer years) is eligible for retirement. The state workforce as a whole is getting older. I would suspect that the number of state and local employees retiring has increased annually over recent years.

    As James Sherlock alluded, the retirements are not the whole picture. There are probably a lot of teachers who are not eligible for retirement, but who, nevertheless, are leaving. After all, the job market is good these days.

    I am anxiously waiting to see what the Youngkin administration does to address the problem.

    1. Timmy V Avatar
      Timmy V

      Not only that, but the first wave of GenX-ers who started teaching right out of college are now eligible to retire.

  12. killerhertz Avatar

    I see this as a good thing. The fewer teachers in government schools the sooner they will collapse.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      You’re about the only truly honest conservative in the group!

      1. killerhertz Avatar

        That’s because i’m an anarcho capitalist not a conservative perse

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          I suspect ya’ll are all in the same tent… no?

      2. killerhertz Avatar

        Also, thanks I’ll take it as a compliment.

        Frankly conservatives have been losing the war of ideas for doing the same hypocritical bs over and over.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          More than a few here in BR claim they are also libertarians…. and “free market”…. anti-regulation, yadda yadda

          1. killerhertz Avatar

            Yeah unfortunately the libertarian party has been crap as long as I’ve known (~40). Things might be changing due to internal changes in the near future. One can hope…

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