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Lawmakers are solving the wrong problem in teacher shortage, experts say

Authors argue we should be supporting the teachers we have, not making it easier to hire more
Posted at 5:52 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 18:11:36-04

CLEVELAND — Right now, it seems to be debatable whether the nation is actually in the midst of a teacher shortage crisis. Whether we are or not, several states are taking action to lure more educators into the classroom. Here in Ohio, lawmakers have temporarily lowered the requirements you need to meet to become a substitute teacher. Through 2024, you don’t need a post-secondary degree to get the job if the applicant meets a school district’s educational requirements. And we’re just one example.

According to an article by University of South Carolina Associate Professor Henry Tran and Iowa State University Associate Professor Doug Smith, California is allowing teacher candidates to skip basic tests, Oklahoma eliminated a certification requirement for teacher candidates, and Alabama lowered the score required on teacher certification exams. But the authors, who also co-edited the book “How Did We Get Here: The Decay of the Teaching Profession,” say these states are offering the wrong solution.

Smith told News 5 that lawmakers shouldn’t be focused on making it easier to become a teacher. They need to make it better to be a teacher.

The professors say the problem facing teachers these days can be summed up in one word: disrespect. Teachers are dealing with an ever-growing workload and doing it all with less pay. They earn about 20% less than other professionals with similar educations.

“It starts with pay and it starts with compensation and compensating teachers, at least to the equivalent of like-educated bachelors or master’s degree equivalent professions,” Smith said.

Teachers are also finding themselves with less control over the contents of their lesson plans as states pass legislation limiting certain topics considered divisive. Lawmakers here in Ohio are considering such a bill. On top of all that, Smith said teachers are dealing with a tidal wave of disrespectful behavior from both students and parents.

“It’s OK to disagree with teachers or the school boards, but we have to do it with a position of respect. We shouldn’t – it should not be normalized to go to school, boards screaming and yelling that a teacher is doing something in a classroom,” he said. The authors say one survey found a growing trend of students physically and verbally harassing teachers, while parents engage in cyberbullying and retaliatory behavior.

At the end of the day, the authors say we don’t need to lower our standards to get more people at the front of a classroom. We need to make sure the educators already standing there want to stay.

“Giving teachers what they need to be successful in the classroom and making it possible for them to teach in a way that they don’t need to have a GoFundMe page to get the necessary classroom materials to be successful in their job,” Smith said.

RELATED: 'It's a shortage of respect': Teacher shortage not as dire in Northeast Ohio, but they want issues fixed