Business needs good teachers

We are seeing a nationwide teacher shortage, and no end is in sight

A disturbing trend could befall the quality of job candidates available for business hiring in the not-too-distant future. We are at risk of finding that the pool of potential hires may be deficient in language and mathematical processing skills and in their ability to think critically relative to past generations. Why might this be so? Simply put, the United States is now experiencing a shortage of highly qualified teachers. And there is no end in sight for this problem.

A weakening of the teaching profession consequently leads to more students receiving less instruction and lower-quality education. It is hard to imagine how a nation that is unable to educate its children adequately can expect to succeed commercially, especially in a globalized economy. Yet this is the situation the U.S. is now facing.

Tuan Nguyen and Chanh Lam of Kansas State University and Paul Bruno of the University of Illinois in an August 2022 paper entitled, “Is There a National Teacher Shortage?” revealed there are 36,000 vacant teacher openings and 163,000 teaching positions being occupied by under-qualified instructors.

They contend these are conservative estimates.

Josh Bleiberg, an education professor at the University of Pittsburgh, claims the quantity of qualified teachers is falling nationwide, and the few states seeing an increase in certified teachers are still not able to keep up with growing enrollments.

One does not have to look too deeply to see why this is the case. Bleiberg’s research discloses that teacher wages, when adjusted for inflation, have been mostly stagnant from 2000-2020, while student caseloads have been consistent.

Also, during this time teachers and administrators have witnessed an expansion of accountability initiatives designed allegedly to improve teacher proficiency. Although some accountability measures are necessary, too many have been based on student test scores, leading to needless stress, system gaming and dilution of curriculum. Making maintenance of teacher credentialing more rigorous with no corresponding compensation increase is bad business.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the number of students earning bachelor’s degrees in education has gone from 176,307 in 1970-71 to 104,008 in 2010-11 to 85,058 in 2019-20. And this decline is before the pandemic.

We cannot underestimate how negative Covid has been for the teaching profession. The terms and conditions of teacher employment degraded overnight. Concerns about their own health and safety while trying to manage instruction remotely or in super-spreader classroom environments while also dealing with students who had experienced the loss of family members has been extremely detrimental. Many older and more experienced teachers chose early retirement rather than risk their physical and emotional health.

Moreover, we now have the politicization of education and use of teachers as punching bags by those who claim students are being brainwashed with various culture war issues of a racial or sexual nature. Let’s throw in the risk of school shootings, and we can see why a national problem exists.

Given the relatively low pay, high productivity demand, health and safety risks and politically oriented pressure, it is no wonder many otherwise great teachers are saying, “No thanks!” This is not just a problem for one industry. It is a potential loss for our economy if we have ill-prepared students growing up to become our available workforce. It is in the best interests of business to recognize the looming threat and to get on board attempting remediation.

As a nation, we can start by accepting the value teachers provide and offering them the prestige they deserve. Teachers are much more of a resource than they are an expense. It is past time to honor them for being the assets they are. From there, we can tackle issues of adequate compensation, reasonable employment conditions, and greater self-determination.

It is for the greater good of our economy, our country and our children that we get this right.

Bill Ryan writes about career, employment and economic topics from his home in North Sutton.

Categories: Business Advice