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As school year starts in Ohio, districts struggle with thousands of open teaching positions

Karen Kasler
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As Ohio kids go back to school, there are fewer educators in those classrooms to teach them, with districts struggling to fill thousands of open teaching positions as the school year gets underway.

The state’s largest teachers’ union says people are quitting teaching or not even choosing the profession because they’re being targeted by extremist politicians and struggle with college costs.

Scott DiMauro, Ohio Education Association president, said student enrollment is down 2%, but staffing levels are off 6%.

“There are 17,000 fewer people working in K-12 education in Ohio going into this school year than was the case going into the 2019-2020 school year. That's a 6% drop over that same period," DiMauro said.

Nationally, 300,000 teachers and staff who were in schools at the start of the pandemic have quit — a 3% drop in the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

DiMauro added: “We have some districts that still have unfilled positions as we prepare to begin the school year. But even beyond that, I think longer term, I'm hearing from districts across the state that have smaller candidate pools than they've had in recent memory.”

DiMauro cites, as one reason that there are more openings and fewer people to fill them, a report from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. They reported earlier this year that traditional teacher-preparation programs have seen a decline of 35% in the ten years from the 2008-09 year and the 2018-19 year. And that doesn't include an expected drop because of the pandemic.

DiMauro said he thinks teacher pay is a part of that.

"People are choosing education as a major less now than they were 10 or 15 years ago," DiMauro said. "And the number one factor is the fact that for the same amount of education and again, keep in mind, a lot of people are taking student loan debt in order to get that education. They can be doing other work making significantly more money."

A new study from the progressive Economic Policy Institute showed Ohio teachers make 14.4% less than workers with similar education and experience. But 42 states and Washington, D.C. have larger pay gaps between teachers and non-teachers — the highest, Colorado, at nearly 40%.

The EPI report said average weekly salaries of U.S. public school teachers increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, the wages for other college graduates rose $445 during the same time. Those figures are adjusted for inflation.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.