National teacher shortage has only gotten worse since the pandemic

The size and scope of the long-standing teacher shortage in the United States has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has only gotten worse as life has begun returning to normal, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The teacher shortage is both widespread and especially severe in schools with high shares of students of color or students from low-income families, according to the report, with teaching vacancies cutting across geographic location and subject areas. The shortage is particularly acute in special education and substitute teaching.

The current shortage is not the result of an insufficient number of qualified teachers, according to the report. Instead, the research points to two key drivers of the shortage:

  • Low teacher pay relative to other occupations that employ college graduates. Recent EPI research found that teachers made on average 23.5 percent less per week of work than their non-teacher college-educated counterparts in 2021.
  • The increasingly stressful work environment teachers face. According to a January 2022 RAND Corporation survey, teachers report higher levels of stress, burnout, and symptoms of depression than other working adults. Another recent RAND survey found that stress is a leading cause for leaving teaching in a public school.

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