Oct 18, 2021 - News
Iowa schools grapple with staff shortages
A woman's blouse and blazer with an apple button.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's the middle of the year, but staff shortages are still hampering Iowa schools' from performing their daily operations at 100%.

  • And this year's politicized debates about classrooms aren't helping with morale and retaining workers, said Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association.

Why it matters: Staff shortages, especially in classrooms, hurt student learning. Teachers and teacher aides don't have time for individualized lesson plans and they're managing larger class sizes.

State of play: Iowa's job board for schools shows nearly 300 open positions in the Des Moines metro, ranging from high school teachers to custodial staff.

  • Retirements ticked up in 2020 due to the pandemic. But there's also been a decline in people applying for jobs, compounding staffing issues, Beranek said.
  • Des Moines Public Schools is offering sign-on bonuses of up to $5,000 for some positions.
Chart: Axios Visuals; Data: DMPS
Chart: Axios Visuals; Data: DMPS

Between the lines: Education workers tend to be women, who have recently left the workforce in droves. They are also older, so they may be more concerned about contracting COVID-19, writes Axios' Courtenay Brown.

What to watch: Morale is at an all-time low as classrooms become the center of divisive political debates, Beranek said. He wouldn't be surprised if there was another exodus of workers at the end of the school year.

  • Mask and vaccine mandates could result in workers leaving. A DMPS teacher was fired this month for violating the district's mask mandate, but otherwise, employee animosity towards it has been minimal thus far, per The Register.
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