Conflicting data points show the complexities of the teacher labor market
Cedar Rapids, Iowa (KCRG) – State data shows an increase in the number of teachers in Iowa, while the number of students has decreased since 2000. Meanwhile, districts said there was an increase in resignations and fewer applicants for teaching positions.
Education researchers said conflicting data points make it difficult to understand the severity of teacher shortages in Iowa and across the United States. These data points also allow officials and politicians to either exaggerate or underestimate the need for teachers.
Josh Bleiberg, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said he believes the need for teachers is a complex and contextual problem. He also said the lack of federal data makes it more difficult to understand the need for teachers today than it was 10 years ago.
“It was a challenge today, it was a challenge 10 years ago,” Bleiberg said. “But is it worse today than it was 10 years ago? It is impossible to know.”
Dan Goldhaber, a professor at the University of Washington, said individual school districts can also face unique challenges for hiring people in specific fields. He also said that the type of job, such as special education, can also determine the difficulty of hiring a teacher.
“It is much more difficult to recruit staff in special education classes and STEM teachers than at the elementary level,” Goldhaber said.
Teaching in Iowa shows that there are approximately 5,000 openings in school districts across the state. About 1,000 opportunities contain the word “teacher”, but also include positions for assistant teachers. The Iowa Department of Education said there are 327 districts in the state, about 3.5 jobs per district with the word “teacher.”
John Kane, the superintendent of the South Tama County Community School District, said he is still trying to hire 8 of the district’s 120 teacher positions. These open jobs are forcing the district to offer fewer classroom options in social studies and are straining resources, he said, such as having fewer staff to train teachers.
“Even a single position such as if it is short is one education-level special education teacher which puts pressure on all other special education teachers to overburden their cases.”
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