Education leaders: Staff shortages persist midway through the school year

By Abby Carroll | Community News Service

Vermont schools face “critical” staff shortages midway through the academic year, education leaders say, with some suggesting the state hack away at its 1,000 teacher and staff vacancies by providing loan support and reducing red tape in licensing and certification.

Before the school year, a Vermont Superintendents Association study found there were around 1,200 open jobs in K-12 schools. Little progress has been made so far: There are still more than 1,000 open positions for teachers, special educators and support staff, Vermont Principals Association executive director Jay Nichols told lawmakers.

Staff shortages were a problem before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the problem has been exacerbated since.

“Fifty percent of teachers who begin (their careers) leave teaching after five years,” Colin Robinson, political director for the Vermont National Education Association, told legislators last week.

Teachers struggle with scarce housing, low pay, pressure to focus on test scores and burnout, Robinson and others told lawmakers of the House Committee on Education on Jan. 18.

Burnout in particular has been on the rise during the pandemic, the education leaders said, as teachers try to deal with the challenges of online classes and increased mental health issues among students and educators.

It’s not just a lack of teachers: Schools are also seeing a shortage of support staff — special educators, administrative workers, aides and more.

“School support staff provide a significant backbone to our entire education system,” Robinson said, “from helping students access their learning inside a classroom setting so they can control and regulate their behavior, to obviously getting health and nutrition, to cleaning the schools, to actually getting to school.”

Part of the problem seems to be a lack of applicants. “Where once we had hundreds of teacher applications for elementary teaching positions, now there are times where we’ll have a dozen or so,” Vermont Principals Association executive director Jay Nichols told lawmakers. “And those are usually in our higher-paying districts.”

Couple that with the fact that nearly a third of principals have left their positions this academic year — about a 10% uptick compared with previous years, Nichols said. And there have been 18 superintendent transitions over the last fiscal year, a dozen of which saw school leaders new to the profession, according to Chelsea Myers, associate executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association.

During the committee meeting Wednesday, education leaders suggested several solutions to the shortage, including lessening the barriers to becoming an educator. They suggested offering a state loan forgiveness program to teachers who stay in Vermont for a certain number of years, along with funding support for teachers to get home loans.

Another idea: Waiving license expenses for teachers moving from other states and bulking up the pension plan for teachers; Nichols called Vermont’s pension plan for teachers the weakest in the region.

Robinson said there are more than 1,200 teachers in Vermont serving on provisional or emergency licenses. This means they are working without full certification and may be teaching outside their subject area. Legislators could find a way to transition those educators to full credentials, he said.

One program doing just that is GrowVT-Ed, a collaboration between the Vermont teacher’s union, school districts, the state Agency of Education, the Vermont Rural Education Collaborative and Castleton University.

The program aims to help those who are on provisional licenses complete the process to full licensure. It also looks to help paraeducators obtain further credentials and to make it easier for college graduates working in other fields to switch to education.

“I think whether it’s GrowVT-Ed or other peer-review support programs that exist in Vermont, there’s a really great opportunity there,” Robinson said.

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

Image courtesy of Public domain

15 thoughts on “Education leaders: Staff shortages persist midway through the school year

  1. Welfare is now generational. The workforce shortages in just about every sector will only get worse over time.

    Perhaps the folks in Montpelier will wake up once the wave of companies headquartered out of state start to leave VT due to chronic labor shortages starts in earnest.

  2. The biggest factor driving the high cost of education in VT and hence the punishing level of property taxes is PERSONNEL INFLATION. Back in the 70s a typical Vermont high school classroom had 30 students and ONE teacher. Now it’s 12 students, two teachers, 3 teaching assistants and 2 one-on-one tutors in a classroom and the standardized test results are abysmal. The VTNEA owns Montpelier and has driven this. With staffing shortages, maybe we are back closer to where we should be. Now the budgets need to come down to match.

    • Hey Rich, ya’ know what is sad? Going back to late 70’s and early 80’s when student teacher ratios were maybe 25 to 1….standardized test scores in Math, Science, english etc…were, I will bet, HIGHER. Because back then there was no WOKE agendized NEA indoctrinations. Now? Ratios are maybe 12 to 1 teacher/student…but the NEA mandates a WOKE, CRT, BLM, Gender, LGBTQ, Enviro, Climate Change, Equality etc… teaching agenda – over math, science, english etc…and test scores ARE DOWN! Yes, COVID played a big part to mess it up….but the truth is that before COVID hit in 2020… VT standardized test scores were declining, or flat, from 2016 to 2019. That is what the NEA and teachers won’t tell you …they blame all on COVID.

      • A couple quotes of PRE Covid numbers….VT has been on the decline of test scores for well over a decade. IT ISN’T JUST COVID. It is the TEACHERS and their Union agenda.

        “….In decades past, Vermont would habitually perform ten points higher than the national average. However, since 2013 or 2015 the gap has been narrowing.”

        “…In 2019, 38% of eighth-graders were proficient or better in math” ( PRE COVID!)

        Rich….WHEN was the last time you saw ANY teacher fired because they were no good? It never happens….But happens all the time in private sectors…UNION protects them. They can almost never be fired for just underperformance. I went thru it in elementary school….they just shifted the horrible teachers around.

        • And the lobbyists protect and own the politicians…

          and the nwo is pulling all the strings and funding the corruption.

          the world and America is slowing awakening, despite all the censorship and propaganda….

  3. Maybe the marxist commie legislators will wake up to their making living in VT un-affordable.It’s now going to hit teachers union dues which pay to put them in the loonie golden dome. I still can’t figure how the stupid voters continue to put them in the spot of stealing their paycheck to fund stupidity…

  4. Yeah, so what… There are a ton of open teacher positions? Tell them to join the crowd. Central VT Hospital has about 200 openings…few takers. Combined with the UVM Health Hospital….there are about 600 open jobs total…from doctors to janitors. No takers. Cabot Creamery has about 50 open positions. No takers. So it isn’t just teachers, it’s statewide !!!. So, maybe address why children from VT so often leave, like mine…Are there other reasons why people aren’t here, or moving to VT (not just well to do second homeowners)? Are there reasons why many leave? Hummmm…let me count the ways 🙂 You can start with a Socialist Progressive legislature, who only care of one-thing-on-the-brain….”climate change” :)….then, how they can spend more, and raise taxes….try to ban fossil fuels? Ban your gas car soon enough? Then make Green electricity the most expensive? The list goes on….:)…..”Reap and ye shall sow”….because “Every Action Has An Equal and OPPOSITE Reaction”!

    • FYI – according to the Agency of Education, for the 2019-20 school year, there were 23,962 teachers and paraprofessionals in our public schools serving fewer than 80,000 students. That’s a 4 to 1 student teacher ratio. But more importantly, when counting all public-school staff, from Superintendents to bus drivers, there were 75,500 employed in the public school system. Do the math ratio.

      Keep in mind, according to the U.S. Dept of Labor, 40% of Vermont’s workforce is employed by the heavily tax subsidized education, health, and government sectors – an unsurmountable voting bloc. We don’t need more public-school employees. We need School Choice.

      • You can’t effectively teach in schools where it is impossible to discipline students, and control classrooms so others, who want to learn can. Some years back I tried it, and left when I realized I was spending more time writing detention slips, then lesson plans.

        • It’s true, ed. I was recently in a burlington public school and it was wild. Loud groups of students running in hallways. It just seemed chaotic. I was also in a place where 100s of the same age school children were unruly. I decided then that I would never volunteer in such a place again. It must be hell for teachers.

      • Thoe are amazing statistics, Jay….adding bus drivers, para prfessionals, suoerintendants & staff, all teachers….I gueess maintainence ones…maybe food service…you get to 75,000 employed for 80,000 students (and dropping)….almost a ONe to ONE ration??

        GEE WHIZ…I wonder why VT Digger, BTV Free Press, VPR etc…don’t tell anyone this 🙂

        And then you say this, Jay : “…40% of Vermont’s workforce is employed by the heavily tax subsidized education, health, and government sectors – an unsurmountable voting bloc.”

        BINGIO…..It IS unsurmountable! VT will face a fiscal crisis in a few years. VT will probably have to seek some kind of bailout…because Federal law says States cannot declare bankruptcy..(only cities can)….VT will raise taxes in upper incomes and business….more upper income will leave and take ALL their assets $….more small business will leave (or shut down)….few will move into VT…and very soon VT will talk about imposing a WEALTH TAX…CALIF (and a few other Socialist states (like IL) already is proposing one! THAT is the death knell for VT. That is when VT goes from “Socialist Progressive” to full out “Communist”…because a Wealth Tax is just confiscation (stealing) of assets. Gee, Hitler did that to the “Juden” in Germany starting in 1938.,,,and the Progressive will want to do it to the “successful” in VT…just wait and see.

        Someone needs to make a Bumper Sticker with these FIVE letters….”VTGON”…VT Get Out Now.

        • it IS insurmountable……quite the opposite, it can’t continue even if it wanted to!

          that is what they want you to believe, and that is their plan, they want to separate people, crush people, cancel people and take away their hope. It’s been done over and over by many characters of the same fiber…

          However, lies and corruption go against the basic fundamental laws of the universe. They all collapse, without any intervention. It brings hell on earth true……but there is a way out.

          We only need to change our direction. We are trying to solve a political problem when the politics are the problem. We have to step outside of our narrative…essentially adopt a new narrative the works, that’s true, that is loving….only then will things change.

          Where do you find wisdom that spans the centuries? That holds true in any age? People would be surprised they can find it for $20…hell it’s free, you only have to ask, and people will give you the information for free too.

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