The economics of teacher recruitment post-COVID-19
As this school year nears an unconventional end, education leaders face the inevitable reality of budget cuts as they plan for 2020-2021. The depth of cuts will vary by state, but experts report leaders should expect state revenue shortfalls to hit district budgets as they compete with other priorities like public health and higher education institutions for limited dollars.
According to Education Week, America’s public schools will need $70 billion for the next three consecutive years in the next round of federal stimulus spending to avoid painful cuts such as teacher layoffs. Because of this and other COVID-19-related realities, administrators will face growing obstacles to teacher recruitment and retention. While this presents a challenge, it also opens up an opportunity to rethink the way schools source their most critical talent: classroom teachers.
Several pandemic-related factors could compound what’s already a real and growing teacher shortage. Teachers at higher-risk of COVID-19 complications may retire early to avoid the health risks of returning to the classroom before a vaccine becomes available. Teacher absences may rise as quarantine has revealed the benefit of taking a day off to spend time with family or prioritize personal matters. Public health experts may recommend smaller class sizes and emphasize the importance of preventive measures like temperature checks and more regular cleaning – all of which require more staff.
At the same time, the effects of COVID-19 could produce an unexpected opportunity for talent: growth in the substitute teacher pool. Displaced workers could begin looking for new, meaningful career opportunities. Full-time parents who enjoyed guiding their students through e-learning might seek outlets to continue teaching. And if virtual instruction continues, a rockstar substitute teacher with chemistry expertise could instruct a class across time zones. As districts struggle to fill teaching jobs, employing substitute teachers also provides a pathway to making a full-time hire – allowing the school and the substitute an invaluable trial period while the necessary credentialing to become a full-time teacher takes place.
Education workforce solutions companies, like Kelly Education, provide domain expertise to districts to provide prepared and credentialed substitute teachers. They offer substitute teachers the opportunity to work year-round, reward and recognition programs, and access to benefits. Partnering with a workforce solutions company to secure substitute teachers is cost neutral or better, because they can creatively and efficiently recruit and onboard substitutes, retain them, and manage their ongoing administrative needs. By wisely allocating reduced budgets, administration leaders can ensure continuity of instruction when full-time teachers can’t be in the classroom.
No one has all the answers on how to emerge from the COVID crisis successfully. The end of this school year and the beginning of the next will be unpredictable for sure. Workforce solutions companies can offer districts some certainty by lessening the burden of the teacher shortage and budget reductions. That way, leaders can focus efforts where they should be, on supporting full-time teachers and students in classrooms.
By Rick Lenkey, Vice President National Sales, Kelly Education