© 2023 KRCU Public Radio
90.9 Cape Girardeau | 88.9-HD Ste. Genevieve | 88.7 Poplar Bluff
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Missouri School Districts Face Ongoing Teacher Shortage

3d illustration of bright empty classroom for lessons and training
sveta - stock.adobe.com
LPI reports annual teacher turnover rates are highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast.

School districts nationwide are struggling to meet student needs with a teacher shortage made worse by COVID.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports the number of vacant positions or those held by unqualified personnel is more than 3,500.

Economists point to the teacher wage gap where teacher pay is calculated against similarly educated, similar-age peers.

Economic Policy Institute research says in 1979 teachers made 7% less than similarly educated peers, but in 2022 that pay gap has grown to 23% - a record high.

Citing 300,000 public education vacancies nationwide, EPI president Heidi Shierholz said the issue boils down to two factors.

"What's happening," said Shierholz, "is that it's becoming more and more difficult to find teachers and other education personnel who will take those jobs under current working conditions and at current wages."

In addition to schools having to do more work with fewer people, teacher turnover is expensive - with recruitment, hiring, and training estimated to cost between $9,000 and $21,000 per teacher.

The teacher shortage has been growing for years prior to COVID, as the completion rate in Missouri teacher preparation programs both alternative and traditional has declined by 31% since 2012.

The American Federation of Teachers released a report in July that outlined policies to fix the teacher shortage.

The recommendations include reducing the focus on standardized testing, reducing paperwork, lowering class size, in addition to providing living wages for teachers and paraprofessionals.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said while the profession was never well paid, the joys of teaching once outweighed the negatives.

"What we used to have," said Weingarten, "is a lot more intrinsic joy about teaching and learning, and a lot of that changed in the no child left behind, no test was bad kind of process, that made us fixating on tests as opposed to fixating on children."

The Learning Policy Institute reports that in Finland and Singapore around 4% of teachers leave the profession annually - mainly to retire - while the teacher attrition rate in the U.S. is about 8% per year, with two-thirds leaving for reasons other than retirement.

The report says the teacher attrition rate was around 5% in the 1990s.

The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.

Brett brings 7 years of radio news writing experience at Metro Source. His reporting expertise is in monetary policy, economic systems, resource distribution, rent-seeking, and neo-feudalism.