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Ohio schools are struggling to fill thousands of open teaching positions

 A student walks down a hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, the first week all students were back to in-person learning in 2021.
Karen Kasler
/
Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau
A student walks down a hallway at Worthington Kilbourne High School in March 2021, the first week all students were back to in-person learning in 2021.

As Ohio kids go back to school, there are fewer educators in those classrooms to teach them. Districts are still struggling to fill thousands of open teaching positions as the new school year gets underway.

The state’s largest teachers’ union said people are quitting teaching or not even choosing the profession because they’re being targeted by extremist politicians and struggle with college costs.

Ohio Education Association president Scott DiMauro said student enrollment is down 2%, but staffing levels are off by 6%.

“There are 17,000 fewer people working in K-12 education in Ohio going into this school year than was the case going into the 2019-2020 school year. That's a 6% drop over that same period," DiMauro said.

Nationally, 300,000 teachers and staff who were in schools at the start of the pandemic have quit, a 3% drop in the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

DiMauro said that there are more openings and fewer people to fill them.

“We have some districts that still have unfilled positions as we prepare to begin the school year. But even beyond that, I think longer term, I'm hearing from districts across the state that have smaller candidate pools than they've had in memory,” DiMauro said.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reported earlier this year that traditional teacher-preparation programs have seen a decline of 35% in the 10 years from the 2008-09 school year and the 2018-19 school. That doesn't include an expected drop because of the pandemic.

DiMauro said he thinks teacher pay is a part of the reason for the decline.

"People are choosing education as a major less now than they were 10 or 15 years ago," DiMauro said. "And the number one factor is the fact that for the same amount of education and again, keep in mind, a lot of people are taking student loan debt in order to get that education. They can be doing other work making significantly more money."

A new study from the progressive Economic Policy Institute showed Ohio teachers make 14.4% less than workers with similar education and experience. But 42 states and Washington D.C. have larger pay gaps between teachers and non-teachers – the highest, Colorado, at nearly 40%.

The report found the average weekly salaries of U.S. public school teachers increased just $29 from 1996 to 2021, the wages for other college graduates rose $445 during the same time. Those figures are adjusted for inflation.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.