(The Center Square) – Despite Virginia teacher salaries continuing to rise, many school districts are reporting teacher shortages as students return to class for the 2022-2023 school year.
During the 2022 biennial budget negotiations, lawmakers agreed to raise teacher salaries by 10% over two years – 5% during the first budget year and another 5% in the second year. This came after a 2021 budget amendment that had already given teachers a 5% pay raise. Yet, going into the next school year, several school districts, particularly in northern and central Virginia, have reported a high rate of vacant positions.
School divisions, including Henrico, Chesterfield, Spotsylvania and Richmond have all reported more than 100 teacher vacancies that have yet to be filled. Fairfax and Loudoun have also reported difficulty filling certain vacancies.
Although the Virginia Department of Education does not collect real-time data on vacancies or pupil-teacher ratios, the post-pandemic numbers have been worse than the pre-pandemic numbers, according to VDOE spokesperson Charles B. Pyle.
Pyle told The Center Square that on Oct. 1, 2019, before the pandemic, there were 1,063 teacher vacancies. Two years later, on Oct. 1, 2021, that number more than doubled to 2,536 vacancies.
“We do not have information on why these positions were vacant.” Pyle said. “…We won’t have pupil-teacher ratio reports for 2021-2020 until the end of the school year.”
Henrico County Public Schools had 203 vacancies across 74 schools as of Aug. 12, which means the schools are at about 94% of their desired staff. However, HCPS spokesperson Eileen M. Cox told The Center Square the number changes often as new contracts are signed.
“Starting today, we are proud to welcome 400 teachers to the district’s annual New Teacher Academy,” Cox said. “This cohort includes teachers who are new to the profession as well as veteran educators who are new to HCPS. As is typical in the weeks prior to a new school year, classroom teacher positions are shifted between schools to align with fluctuating student enrollment and provide the best student-teacher ratios possible.”
Despite the vacancies, HCPS is still well within the state-mandated student-teacher ratio.
Certain teaching positions in the commonwealth have been harder to fill than others. According to a VDOE analysis, the most critical areas in which there is a shortage were with PreK through sixth-grade teachers, special education teachers, sixth- through eighth-grade teachers, career and technical education teachers and sixth- through 12th-grade math teachers.