How Bad Are Virginia Public Schools’ Personnel Shortages?

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) maintains a job board for itself and for school districts seeking personnel of all sorts. It shows about 1,6oo openings, but some of the postings are more than two years old. And the real number is somewhere around 7,000.

It is useless.

Apparently VDOE, in its striving under the whip hand of the Governor and General Assembly to regulate and oversee the minute details of school division compliance with massive changes to laws, lacks the personnel or inclination to keep its own job board up to date. Embarrassing.

So, VDOE may have no estimate what the shortages will be next month.  If it does, it is not sharing.

The current signs are not good.

How many vacancies and what types? today has 6,850 Virginia K-12 school jobs in its listings. By cross checking school division job boards, that appears to be close to an actual number. I was unable to break out how many of those were teaching positions. If it is slightly more than half, which is a conservative estimate, that represents 3,500 open teaching jobs.

That figure does not include principals, APs, and special staff such as counselors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, cafeteria workers, security personnel, tech staff, bus drivers, cleaning staff and others required to keep the doors open.

A shortage of bus drivers for the more than 15,000 school buses operated by the commonwealth’s school divisions can be predicted with confidence in the current labor market.

Lack of drivers can shut down or cause major interruptions in entire districts.

Teacher shortages. Only 32 of those vacancies statewide on are advertised as work from home. Apparently,those jobs, however many there may be, have been scooped up by incumbents. Except in Richmond.

RPS advertises eight vacancies for virtual teachers among nearly 250 vacancies total. Sort the RPS job board various ways and you will find interesting information.

Check your local school district job board, if they have one, for the current actual vacancies in your area.

We don’t currently know how many of the teachers currently on staff will insist on “accommodations” for teaching from home for such conditions as refusing to get vaccinated.

Once school starts, school divisions are charged to report actual numbers. The last consolidated report of school divisions before COVID is here.

That VDOE report listed 1,063 teaching vacancies, nearly half in special education (243) and elementary education PreK-6 (241) combined. Shortages of secondary school math teachers (80) and school psychologists (36) were notable relative to total demand.

But there are more than 100,000 teachers in Virginia Public schools, so the teacher shortages statewide as a whole hovered at 1% before COVID and before the last two General Assembly sessions legislated the rapid radicalization of Virginia K-12 education.

We don’t know if the next survey will break out in-school teachers and virtual teachers separately.

However, the first survey 2021-22 survey is structured, we can use the one linked above as a reference once the actual data for the coming year emerge in late September.

I’m afraid the teacher shortages may be brutal, especially of in-school teachers.

If there are enough bus drivers.

The coming debate over causes. If so, people and their interest groups will rush to the blackboard to speculate why.

  • The left will say not enough money;
  • The rest of us will reflect on the ongoing assault on teachers’ dignity, personal values, standards and autonomy in the classrooms.

School districts that choose to negotiate contracts with unions will be significantly disadvantaged by shortages.

So will the children.

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11 responses to “How Bad Are Virginia Public Schools’ Personnel Shortages?”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Looking over the Fauquier vacancies I discovered that the job openings were not cornered into one particular subject area. The vacancies seem to impact every type of classroom teacher a school system has.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      You folks don’t appear close enough to West Virginia to fill the ranks from there.

  2. John Martin Avatar
    John Martin

    “School districts that choose to negotiate contracts with unions will be significantly disadvantaged by shortages.

    So will the children.”

    nasty thing to say

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Necessary periodically to remind VDOE, the Governor and the GA that it is not just adults that have stakes in the school system. It doesn’t seem to register, but I will continue to try.

  3. Brian Leeper Avatar
    Brian Leeper

    Such a shocker that a Virginia state government website is out of date and useless.

    No, seriously, isn’t that the normal state of things?

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Not the first time. Pick a year, any year. Google “teacher shortage Virginia 200x” and the results go back decades.

    Gotta start paying these people. Or at least, stop making them buy their own supplies.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      You win. First one to the blackboard.

      I agree with you on paying them what they are worth, but teachers have been underpaid all of my life.

      The difference this time is the state’s cultural assault on them and the overreach on strict compliance with thousands of pages of rules by the Northam administration and the GA. That really is different. I have never seen it before, nor have you.

      The first teachers’ meeting at many Virginia schools this year will be very traumatic as they hear all of the new rules, including loosening of school discipline, many for the first time. And then are dispatched to cultural awareness and social-emotional learning training.

      I offer comments from two teachers in the Michigan legislature, one Democrat and one Republican. Neither cited teacher pay as the reason they ran for office. Both cited overreach by legislators that take autonomy away from teachers.

      “Teachers and educators recognize that many of our legislators are completely out of touch with the realities of the classroom. For too long the opinion of teachers has been disregarded and the teaching profession has been under attack. Lansing has a long history of making education policy without doing the research first.

      “That is why I ran for the legislature after being a teacher after 19 years. As a former teacher of the year, I bring a unique perspective, and I am working hard to make sure teachers’ voices are finally heard in the Michigan legislature.”
      – Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D)

      “As I taught, I increasingly had to jump through all of the hoops placed in front of me from my district, the Department of Education, and the state… All of that hoop jumping saps the energy from talented teachers who are just trying to do what is best for kids.”

      “Our education world often falls into working in silos, which bring a feeling of aloneness that is detrimental to culture and innovation. As policymakers in education, I have noticed that we consistently seek to to come up with all of the answers and then force educators to do them. This is the backwards approach we have been taking for too long that meets the definition of insanity.”

      “I have been reworking HB 5833 and HB 5834 from last term to create a nonpartisan teacher network that is a structure intended to truly empower teacher voice and bring prestige back to the profession.”
      – Rep. Brad Paquette, (R) – 78

      You must know this is a new and overwhelming problem for Virginia teachers regardless of their personal politics.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Yeah, and DeVos was a godsend angel.

  5. Great use of the data, Jim. VDOE and the school districts have no excuse for not seeing what is coming.

    Teaching shortages have been chronic for years, especially in dysfunctional school systems like Richmond. Nothing new there. What your data suggest is that the shortages will be more acute than ever and spread to more school districts.

    The impact of the new laws that you have written about may not be evident right away. Teachers won’t wig out until they experience first-hand how the laws make their jobs more frustrating and, in some cases, more dangerous. The real test will be to see how many teachers come back after the Christmas break.

  6. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    I often remind readers of the vital role parents play in the success or failure of their own children, with failure often due to parents assuming it is not their job or something they just can’t seem to master. Don’t ignore the role some parents play in making the life of teachers a living hell. (Jimmy Stewart losing it with his child’s teacher in It’s A Wonderful Life is a mild glimpse compared to the real ass holes, who usually have the admin folks cowed.)

  7. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Hey don’t forget we’ve also been told we need to get rid of all the white female teachers too. They’ve been vilified as racists.

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