The Worker Shortage in American Schools

African american female teacher teaching students in the class at elementary school.

Most schools are facing a significant challenge in employing staff. Not only are teachers becoming more scarce but other types of staff are in demand, such a custodians, cafeteria workers, substitute teachers and other staff that schools need. These individuals are responsible for providing the infrastructure for schools to function. We are just beginning to see discussions where this fact is being acknowledged. Like many professions in our country we are having a very hard time returning back to work from COVID-19 and its variants.

WBUR – On Point has just released an interview regarding this topic from several individuals who have perspective on this issue. Here is the introduction to this interview:

Schools are facing a shortage of bus drivers. Custodians. Substitute teachers. Cafeteria workers.

“I’m hearing about teachers sacrificing their planning periods to cover for classrooms that don’t have an assigned teacher available. Administrators stepping into classrooms, or into school buses or lunch lines,” school finance reporter Mark Lieberman says. “School districts going out to the community and asking parents to step into these various roles.”

What does this mean for educators?

“Educators are experts at this. They will find a way to get enough adults into the classroom,” education reporter Koby Levin says. “The cost though is that folks end up doing coverage that’s really outside of the scope of their duties, and that means they can’t work on the kind of programming that’s going to help students recover from the pandemic.”

Teacher talking and explaining to high school teen with laptop during lecture.

It’s a cost that is shaping the entire education system.

“When we’re missing key players in schools – folks like bus drivers, special education aides – the whole system just gets spread a little bit thinner,” Levin adds.

Today, On Point: When the system is spread thin, who suffers most? We navigate the impact of a worker shortage in American schools.

Here is the link to this interview. Our schools are dependent on auxiliary personnel to function. Lakeside’s schools depend on van drivers and program aides substantially to help our teachers and counselors meet the needs of our students. We too are struggling to find individuals who will work in these positions which really puts more demands on our teaching and direct services staff.  We really don’t have a great set of answers for this dilemma but there are some thoughts and perspectives given in this interview.

Gerry Vassar


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