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Study shows Virginia’s teacher shortages continue

Sen. Mamie Locke listens as JLARC members explain new K-12 teacher pipeline and vacancy data.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
Sen. Mamie Locke listens as JLARC members explain new K-12 teacher pipeline and vacancy data.

Pandemic era teacher shortages continued across the Commonwealth. That’s one of the headlines from a new report on Virginia’s K-12 teacher pipeline from the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC.

The new report, released Tuesday morning, says there’s little rhyme or reason to the shortages, with some divisions having enough staff while others, like Danville, having over 40% of their classrooms without a regular teacher.

“Parents in those [short staffed] divisions, schools should be attentive to this and concerned about it,” said JLARC Senior Associate Director Justin Brown. “All the research tells us a high quality teacher is the most important thing in a K-12 classroom.”

But it’s not all bad news; the deficit of new teachers is starting to recede, and the report found causes for the shortage fit into two buckets. Surveyed teachers who recently left the state system blamed inadequate support from the school and administration and heavy workloads while salary concerns came in as a close second.

Sen. Mamie Locke’s district includes Hampton which saw teacher vacancies increase to over 10%. Locke said language in the new budget removing the 13 year old caps on support staff hiring could address some teachers' concerns.

“We are at least allowing divisions to hire the support personnel they need so teachers can just teach and stop being the social worker, the nurse, the psychologist, and just be the teacher in the classroom,” she told Radio IQ.

Delegate Tony Wilt, whose district includes the Harrisonburg area, was also hopeful a yet-to-be-signed budget will address some concerns.

“It's exciting, with the budget that came out last week, the governor is committed to doing a lot of great things for education,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things there, maybe not in this report, but on the horizon for parents to be excited about for their children.”

Lisa Coons, Governor Youngkin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, also spoke at the report release Tuesday. She said recent updates to the licensing application process helped speed up new teacher licensures, but the legislature and localities need to be flexible, as well.

“We need to continue to invest in alternative pathways and equip our school divisions with these pipeline development options to help reduce those vacancies that are localized and are being seen in certain divisions, but not other divisions across the state.”

Coons also pushed back on some of the data used by JLARC, claiming the vacancy numbers were linked to data from 2022. But Brown disagreed with that assessment, saying he’d received the data from Coons’ office only a week earlier.

Education officials praised the governor for multiple salary increases-- 5% each year over the last two years and another 2% expected in the new budget-- granted to teachers since he took office.

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

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.