KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)— According to a recent survey released by the U.S. Department of Education, the average American public school reported having 3.4 open teaching positions. The teacher shortage is affecting local school systems here in East Tennessee.
Linda Jensen is a Knox County Schools parent. Her youngest goes to Adrian Burnett and her 11-year-old goes to Halls Middle School.
Before moving to Tennessee, she taught for several decades. She has a master’s degree in education and several other education certifications. Jensen said as a former teacher and current public school parent, she’s concerned about how the teacher shortage is affecting her children’s education.
“Part of the problem is that the state, at the state level, it’s not really funding the schools,” said Jensen.
The Institute of Education Sciences found that 88% of public schools nationwide reported that teacher and staff burnout was a concern during the 2021-22 school year.
“Some teachers have chosen to leave the profession for various reasons,” said Dr. Tommy Arnold, the Director of Jefferson County Schools. “Prior to COVID, we would have an elementary position open up and have 30 to 40 applicants, and right now in our district we have three vacancies for an elementary school teacher.”
Over in Anderson County, Spokesperson Ryan Sutton said, “we have approximately 600 teacher positions that’s a certified position and currently we have two positions that are open in our district.”
Both the U.S. and Tennessee Department of Education has changed some of the qualifications to allow those without teaching licenses to lead a classroom, and some local school systems have increased pay to entice more people to apply for teaching jobs.
In Jefferson County, Arnold said, “beginning teacher pay is at $41,200.”
“A starting teacher in Anderson County earns a little bit more than 40,800 dollars a year,” said Ryan Sutton.
However, Jensen said that’s not enough. She said that not only does pay need to increase for qualified teachers but she wants to see the standards increase at the state level.
“You have to understand how people learn and you have to have the knowledge to teach them the way they learn.”
US News ranked Tennessee’s kindergarten through 12 education system as 31 out of the 50 states.