Maryland teacher shortage worsened ‘because during the pandemic people left’

(The Center Square) – The Maryland Board of Education and teachers’ organizations expected the current teacher shortage as much as 10 years ago, the head of the Maryland State Education Association said.

Fewer candidates were going into teacher preparation programs in the past decade, Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, told The Center Square. Not having enough teachers overall, in addition to ebbs and flows in subject-specific shortage, seemed inevitable.

“Right now, the Maryland State Board of Education just reported that that’s down 33% currently, so you have fewer people going into the profession,” she said. “And at the same time, we knew that as more and more baby boomers were going to retire, those two would hit – basically collide – at a certain point.”

The teacher shortage is costly to the state and school systems, State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury told the Maryland Board of Education on July 26. Separation, recruitment, hiring and training were estimated to cost between $9,000 and $21,000 per teacher, according to his “Maryland’s Teacher Workforce: Supply, Demand and Diversity” presentation made to the board.

Ten percent of teachers did not return to teach in 2021-22 from the previous year, he said. Local education agencies’ attrition varied from 7% in Allegany and Cecil counties to 18% in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore. More than 5,500 teachers did not return for the current school year, with 2,126 voluntary resignations and 1,132 retirements, according to the presentation.

Nearly a decade ago, school systems offered tuition reimbursement if students went into education and came back and taught in their school districts, she said.

Bost said what can be done to attract and retain educators was part of the discussions that took place five years ago for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

Maryland is an “import state” for teachers, with 68% of the teachers coming from other states.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future projects for teachers to be paid $60,000 for starting salaries, she said.

“The pay is still not commensurate with comparable professions,” she said. “When we compare it to other fields that require the same amount of education and continuing education, we’re still about 80 cents on the dollar,” she said.

To attract teachers, school districts are holding more job fairs. Plus, signing bonuses are being offered. And some college students who need to complete their student teaching before starting their careers are being offered positions to cover classes, get paid and have it count for their student teaching requirements, she said.

Bost also said schools are reaching out to recently retired teachers to return to the classroom.

The Maryland State Education Association said it has looked into seeing what can be done to retain teachers already working for school systems. A lot of that would be to reduce workload demands and take away from instructional time with students, she said.

Doing those things would make their jobs easier and make it more enticing to stay in the field. Most state standardized tests waste time, she said.

“Districts often require teachers to do practice tests throughout the year until they get to that spring test. Those are a waste of time,” she said.