Statewide Teacher Shortage: 2,500 Vacancies and Counting

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s public schools had 2,500 teacher vacancies in October 2021, according to Virginia Department of Education data, reports Capital News Service.

That number is likely higher today, as burned-out teachers quit their jobs in the middle of the school year in unprecedented numbers.

Despite hiring 700 to 900 teachers per year on average, Prince William County has 453 vacant positions. Richmond City Public Schools lists 90 open teacher vacancies. Fairfax County Public Schools has about 200 vacancies, although because it is so large, the county is only 1% shy of being fully staffed.

Schools are filling open positions by hiring teachers with provisional licenses, which means they have not yet completed teacher preparation programs. “Recruiting pools of people and making it easier for them to enter doesn’t actually solve the crisis. I equate it to filling a leaky bucket,” Adria Hoffman, president of the Virginia Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators, tells Capital News Service.

Hoffman argues that schools need to provide better working conditions, pay raises, and infrastructure improvements to retain teachers. Infrastructure improvements? Yes, updated ventilation systems or windows that open. Poor air quality can hurt the immunocompromised. “Even losing 1, 2 or 3% of your workforce due to lack of safe and clean air quality makes an impact,” Hoffman says.

I suspect inadequate air conditioning is the least of most schools’ problems.

WWBT cites a 2018 survey in which teachers listed pay, workload, and lack of support from administrators, as reasons for leaving the profession. A pay raise would create an incentive to continue working, but 23% said that no level of pay increase would encourage them to stay.

Since then, the COVID pandemic and administrative response to it have aggravated teacher stress levels. Not only are some teachers worried about exposure to the virus, many struggled to switch back and forth between in-person and remote learning. With all schools back to in-person this year, they’re dealing with an increased level of behavioral issues, which one teacher attributes to “internalized trauma from the pandemic,” and the challenge of catching up students who lost ground last year.

State legislators have proposed a 4% salary increase plus a 1% bonus in each of the next two years of the new biennial budget. As generous as that might have been by previous standards, it lags the 8.5% increase in the cost of living in the past year.

Bacon’s bottom line: I have yet to see news stories acknowledge in any but the vaguest of terms how teachers are demoralized by ever-increasing demands for paperwork, deteriorating classroom discipline, and the time chewed up in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion training. Virginia’s public schools are in trouble, none more so than Title I schools with large enrollments of low-income minority students, where discipline problems are the worst and Standards of Learning pass rates have fallen the furthest.

The increasing teacher vacancies are more than a canary in the coal mine of an impending explosion. In many respects, they are the explosion. You can’t teach without teachers.

Meanwhile, as conditions worsen, public schools in Virginia are facing a crisis of legitimacy. Even as left-wing school boards demand more tax dollars to feed floundering systems, they aggressively push a social justice agenda that is hostile to the values of many parents. There seems to be no room for compromise. When parents complain about books with offensive sexual and even pornographic content, they are ridiculed as luddites and book burners. When they complain about Critical Race Theory infusing teacher training, curricula and even some classroom teaching, they are denounced as racists and homophobes. No wonder so many families are resorting to homeschooling. No wonder school board meetings are packed every month with protesters.

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12 responses to “Statewide Teacher Shortage: 2,500 Vacancies and Counting”

  1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Every teacher I know who has left a school district was because of the level of behavior of the students.
    I’m not sure what the answer is to that problem.
    One nice lady was a teacher at a south side RVA elementary school where a 1st grader told her, in front of the whole class, that he was “going to rape and shoot her white @&&”. When she took him to the principal she was told to just move on. When she said she would like to resign she was told that if she did they would ensure she would lose her license and would not be teaching anywhere else due to breaching her contract. She teaches in a private school now for less pay and less benefits.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Seems like over the last two years, there has been a ton of blog posts about K-12, teachers, administrators, school boards from a variety of authors from JAB, to Sherlock, to Hurtt, to Kerry, and several others.

    I’m trying to recall which ones were not critical or condemned and were largely objective, fair, or even supportive.

    seems like most of them were pretty negative.

    The ones against the teachers were especially ugly.

    Then Youngkin created the “tip” line and most Conservatives supported it.

    I’d say all in all, given the rhetoric from conservatives over the last two years, is anyone really shocked that teachers are leaving?

    It’s almost comical to be doing the sky is falling , Chicken little thing now, isn’t it?

    1. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
      Virginia Gentleman

      But yet the conservatives think the problem is the nonsense about CRT training. The truth is that the teachers are fed up with the Tip Line, the parents constant complaining about what books are being taught and suggesting that they are “grooming” students to be gay or gender confused. Teachers want to make a difference in children’s life and when parents say “Teach math but don’t say gay” it frustrates the hell out of them.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Spotsylvania county, about midway between Richmond and DC along the I-95 corridor now has a Conservative majority on the Schools Board. They fired the superintendent (without cause) and they now have over 300 vacancies in a school system about 1/8 the size of Fairfax.

        They not gaining – for every new hire, they’re losing another veteran.

        They just voted a substantial raise hoping to stem the losses.

        If I remember Va law correctly, it takes the local school board to approve a new charter.

        I see this board as doing that if they can. The BOS is split between Conservatives and Moderates with on school principal as a member.

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    One of the problems often cited by disillusioned teachers is the mountain of paperwork that does not seem to serve much of a purpose.

    Jim Sherlock and I identified several pieces of legislation passed by this session of the General Assembly that would have added to this mountain. They were: HB 197, HB 319/SB616, HB 741, HB 1188, and SB 724. In addition to adding to paperwork, Matt Hurt, the leader of one of the most successful education projects in the state, has argued that HB 319/SB 166, the Virginia Literacy Act, would cause real harm.

    The vetoing of these bills would not have made any difference in the current teacher vacancy crisis, but it could have served as a symbol that the Governor understood the problem and was moving to do something about it. The Governor signed all the bills.

    For a description of the bills, see here:

    For Matt’s argument against the Virginia Literacy Act, see here:

  4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “When parents complain about books with offensive sexual and even pornographic content, they are ridiculed as luddites and book burners.”

    Ban Maus!!

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Of course, the Bible has all that and more. Is it to be banned?

      We could sue to have the Bible removed.

  5. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Wait… you mean tapping into that sweet teacher pay gravy train where no work is required to make the big bucks on the backs of the taxpayers is not enough…?! I guess this is what happens when you offer them the right to collective bargaining… ingrates…!! /s

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Don’t need teachers. Got Elon’s Twitter. Conservative youth can learn everything they need to know from their iPhones.

  7. Turbocohen Avatar

    School Board member Vicky Manning was right all along about unsustainability.. It’s the budget stupid. Its a shame the Republican Party of VB chairman Bill Curtis threw her and every conservative school board member who agrees with her under the bus.

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