Educational Reform Needed To Address Teaching Shortages


By increasing teachers’ pay, more qualified professionals will choose to become teachers. Photo: Sidwell Friends.

Teachers’ working conditions and consequential teacher shortages are intrinsically tied together. As working conditions in schools deteriorate, the number of teachers continues to decline throughout the nation. Inversely, if schools are able to increase the number of teachers, their working conditions will improve as teacher workloads will be reduced. Additionally, by increasing teachers’ wages and expanding their authority and autonomy in the classrooms, schools can draw in more prospective teachers to supplement current shortages.

According to USA Today, political and academic pressures are two key factors discouraging young professionals from pursuing teaching careers. Right-wing politics in particular contribute to the strain on teachers, as conservatives push for censorship in education and aim to strictly limit content addressing LGBTQ or racial topics. For example, the debate over allowing critical race theory to be taught in schools has become increasingly intense, which could lead to a full restructuring of United States history curriculums. Such political controversies force teachers to restrict their curriculum, dissuading many prospective teachers.

Additionally, teachers have little freedom to customize their curriculums, especially in preparation for standardized tests. By putting teachers on tight schedules and setting high standards for student performance on these exams, the school system prevents them from taking more creative or innovative approaches to their lesson plans. As a result, many teachers motivated by a passion for education lose enthusiasm for the profession, damaging their performance or pushing them to resign. When teachers are unmotivated, students are far less likely to stay engaged or be inspired to pursue teaching themselves, thus effecting future generations of teachers. Both of these issues could be circumvented by allowing teachers greater autonomy over their lesson plans and material.

Furthermore, by increasing teaching salaries, the school system would see a significant increase the number of teachers, as many who would otherwise be interested in the career do not view it as a financially viable option. Most teaching position require a bachelor’s degree, despite an average annual salary of only $50,000, thus excluding many lower and middle-class candidates who cannot finance higher education in pursuit of a low-paying career. In addition, by raising teachers’ salaries, schools would attract better qualified candidates, further improving the learning environment for both students and teachers. Better-compensated teachers will be better motivated, and thus more effective in the classroom.

Restructuring the school system to improve teachers’ salaries and give them more control over in-classroom instruction is the only way to break the cycle of poor teaching conditions and teaching shortages.