Half of schools feel understaffed, national survey shows

Cindy Bae Image
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Half of schools feel understaffed, survey shows
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New federal data shows schools are facing a desperate shortage of teachers and staff. Locally, the story rings true.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- New federal data shows schools are facing a desperate shortage of teachers and staff. Locally, the story rings true.

For Broughton Magnet High School student Miriam Ragsdale, 16, the nationwide teacher and staff shortage is fortunately not felt in her Wake County classroom. But for her peers struggling to learn from one teacher, consistently, Ragsdale said she could see it being really stressful for them during exams.

"There's just like a lot of teacher shortages and subs, there's so many subs," Ragsdale said.

The latest survey results on public school experiences with COVID-19 from the National Center for Education Statistics show staffing shortages have been a persistent problem, with 53% of public schools reporting feeling understaffed at the start of the new school year in August, and 69% reporting too few candidates as the biggest challenge to hiring teachers.

The most understaffed positions are special education teachers and transportation staff, according to NCES.

"Every afternoon there's an announcement about which routes don't have bus drivers, or going to be late, and who has to get picked up and sometimes kids can't even get picked up," Ragsdale said.

In September, the Wake County Public School System reported a 30% vacancy rate for bus drivers with 267 open positions for bus drivers.

Durham Public Schools is also hiring bus drivers and looking to fill 133 teacher vacancies. Both WCPSS and DPS, for example, continue to try and hire more teachers and bus drivers.

"Being very creative and sort of thinking outside the box," executive director of recruitment Michele Hayes said. "Looking at our volunteers, our career work center, with the veterans I'm reaching out to them and our TA to teacher program that we have already established."

Hayes said there's an average of at least 80 applications per week.

"So we do have a pool of candidates," Hayes said. "We're working on getting a small career fair together in October."

As schools actively recruit, Johnston County parent Justin Ungar shared his future concerns about the staffing shortages, should it continue.

"If there is a teacher shortage that means that there's not going to be as many resources," Ungar said about his 3-year-old son. "There's not going to be as much as one-on-one time to be able to spend with my child and that's concerning."

Mulligan Tutoring Services in Wake County reported seeing an influx of students behind on core subjects, such as Math and English.

"It's a different demand," owner Kelly Mulligan said. "Throughout the pandemic, when (students) weren't going to school, they were just looking for that support. Now ... we're seeing the student is behind."

Although the demand for tutoring services may not be directly correlated to the staffing shortage, Mulligan said it's higher than normal.

"So much so that we don't have enough tutors to help with demand," Mulligan said, adding that they're hiring on LinkedIn and plan to distribute flyers at local universities.

"We're always looking, always open," Mulligan said.

Statewide, any level of attrition remains a concern and a challenge that must be addressed aggressively, according to state superintendent Catherine Truitt.

"One way the state is looking to address pipeline challenges and reduce teacher attrition is through the newly-proposed draft licensure and compensation model that is openly being discussed and revised within PEPSC," Truitt said in a statement. "Reforming the model would allow the state to support, and sustain, current teachers with better compensation and opportunities for career advancement while also supporting early-career teachers through a professional system of support. This opportunity for reform is an important way we can directly address some of the vacancy challenges districts are experiencing."