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New data shows teacher shortages are hitting Virginia, especially in southside

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Schools across Virginia are dealing with a major teacher shortage.

The Great Resignation is hitting classrooms across Virginia as teachers leave the profession. Chad Stewart at the Virginia Education Association says it's a trend driven by low pay for teachers, a shortage of support staff and fallout from the pandemic.

"A lot of students experienced significant trauma during the pandemic when they were not in school buildings," Stewart says. "And teachers in many ways are dealing with the fallout of that trauma with additional behavioral issues and needs for additional mental health supports that just haven't adequate."

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says raising the pay for teachers will not only help recruit new teachers; it'll help keep them in the classroom.

"There's a lot of improvement that teachers make in their skills over their careers, particularly over the first three to five years," explains Goren. "And it's important that we keep teachers in the field rather than having folks leave after a few years because they want to be able to afford to raise their children."

Schools that serve low-income students and Black students have higher teacher vacancy rates – according to numbers from the Department of Education. That's especially true in southside Virginia, where the vacancy rates are higher than any other part of the state.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Updated: July 19, 2022 at 4:53 PM EDT
The Virginia Education Association is a financial supporter of RADIO IQ.
Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.