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Why WOULDN’T There Be a Teacher Shortage in the U.S. Right Now?

Teachers hold signs standing on a sidewalk. One in focus reads "I can't teach from the grave"

As students prepare to start a new school year, there’s been a heavy focus on the teacher shortage facing the country. This actually isn’t a new problem—there’s been a growing shortage of teachers for years—but it’s recently reached a breaking point, causing an all-out crisis nationwide. States are reporting thousands of unfilled teaching and support positions, and some areas are even considering moving to a four-day school week out of necessity.

There’s been a good deal of punditry around the shortage and its potential causes. Obviously, the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic is to blame for much of the problem. For more than two years, we’ve been hearing stories of school districts being decimated by hundreds of teachers and staff taking simultaneous sick days due to illness and quarantines.

But also, it’s hard to imagine that the U.S. wouldn’t be experiencing a teacher shortage. Not just because of existing staff needing to take sick leave but because how do you entice a potential labor force into a field that is underpaid, disrespected, requires you to buy your own supplies, and presents the constant threat of mass shootings under a government that refuses to protect you? This is a job where wanting to protect your own health by simply wearing a mask and asking others to do the same is seen as a trampling of “freedoms” and get you publicly branded a villain.

Also, in a growing number of states, you, as a teacher, cannot discuss the basic realities of American racism, past or present. You also cannot be openly LGBTQ+ or openly support the existence, let alone rights, of LGBTQ+ people, or risk being branded a “groomer” and subject to mass harassment—even violence—and/or firing.

Why wouldn’t there be a teacher shortage right now?

(image: Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.