There’s no teacher shortage in Charlotte County. That’s rare in VA.
Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022
CHARLOTTE COURT HOUSE – One month into the new semester, things are going well for Charlotte County Public Schools. They outperformed the state average for SOL (Standards of Learning) tests and now, they have nearly all positions filled.
“We are very fortunate to only have one unfilled position,” said Superintendent Robbie Mason. “Many divisions in our region have multiple unfilled vacancies at this point.”
It’s a problem for many school districts right now. In this region, Lunenburg County has 12 vacancies. Prince Edward County needs to find 10 teachers. Buckingham and Cumberland also have positions left to fill. And the news isn’t much better across the state, where there are an estimated 1,200 vacant teacher positions.
“There are certainly fewer applicants for teaching positions than there have been in the past,” Mason said.
But what’s causing the drop in applicants? Why isn’t Charlotte affected? And will Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s new plan have an impact?
What’s causing the problem?
There are a few things causing the shortage, based on a survey by the National Education Association. Part of that comes due to salary. Virginia teachers make an average of $58,506, according to the National Education Association. That puts the Commonwealth 25th in the nation. An average starting teacher’s salary in Virginia comes in at $42,251, good enough for 18th. The national average, by comparison, is $65,293.
Another issue, both in this region and across the state, is burnout. The NEA study found Virginia teachers are quitting (and prospective applicants staying away) partly due to increasing expectations and requirements. They’re being asked to do more with the same amount of resources, same time involved and same pay.
“Finding a nurse or carpenter or a computer programmer who wishes to leave the private sector to teach for teacher pay is difficult to say the least,” the NEA report states. “Many teachers have been retiring from teaching after they reach that 30-year mark, even though they are not yet 65.”
To fix these issues, the report recommends a couple things. First, they suggest bringing back retired teachers who are willing to help. The problem with that in the past has been about benefits. If a Virginia teacher unretires, they lose their Virginia Retirement System benefits. The NEA suggests letting retirees come back while being able to keep benefits.
The report, and Superintendent Mason, also suggest the state make it easier to become a teacher.
“There are many requirements for earning a teaching license in Virginia,” Mason said. “Removing some of those barriers and replacing them with alternative licensure routes will be beneficial.”
A new proposal by Virginia’s governor would move closer to making that a reality.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, Gov. Youngkin signed an executive directive to help with the shortage.
Mason’s suggestion about changing the licensing process is part of that.
Under the new directive, Virginia’s Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera is being assigned to work with the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Labor and the Commissioner of the Department of Labor to rework how teachers are licensed. Specifically, the order says the group is to “reduce red tape associated with teaching licensure, while ensuring high standards, in order to recruit more out of state teachers, retired teachers, career switchers, military veterans and other professionals with much to offer students.”
Mason applauded another part of the order which creates a registered teacher occupation apprenticeship program. School divisions like Charlotte would work with the state to help train and license new teachers, including those already working as paraprofessional educators. A paraprofessional is someone already in the classroom as an assistant.
They don’t lead lessons for the class and they’re required to be supervised by a licensed teacher. Under this plan, it would be easier and quicker for those “parapros” to earn their full license.
Finally, the directive requires schools to take part in an annual survey. Each year, all returning teachers will take part in a survey, identifying what works and what doesn’t. The same goes for exiting teachers, who will be asked to identify the main causes of why they’re leaving the profession.
All of that immediately takes effect, with licensing changes expected by the end of the current school year.