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Teacher Shortages Are Real, but Not for the Reason You Heard

There is little evidence to suggest teacher turnover has increased nationwide or educators are leaving in droves. Many schools have struggled to find enough educators, but the challenges are related more to hiring, especially for nonteaching staff jobs. The number of people employed in public schools dropped from almost 8.1 million in March 2020 to 7.3 million in May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment has grown to 7.7 million since then, but that still leaves schools short around 360,000 employees.

Quit rates in education rose slightly this year, but that’s true for the nation as a whole, and teachers remain far more likely to stay in their job than a typical worker. Hiring has been so difficult largely because of an increase in the number of open jobs. Schools flush with federal pandemic relief money are creating new jobs and struggling to fill them at a time of low unemployment and stiff competition for workers of all kinds. Three-fourths of school leaders are trying to hire more substitutes, 58% are trying to hire more bus drivers, and 43% are trying to hire more tutors, according to a survey by RAND.