Jan 4, 2022 - News

Iowa school staff shortages expected to persist in 2022

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Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Expect to see more Iowa educators leave the profession earlier than expected, especially when their contracts are up this summer, Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, told Axios.

Why it matters: Staffing shortages remain one of the biggest challenges for the 2021-22 school year, as districts try to draw in workers by doing everything from increasing substitute pay, giving bonuses and closing buildings to give more time off.

  • At this rate, 2022-23 doesn't appear much different, Beranek said.

State of play: Typically, schools worry teachers will leave the field in under five years, but Beranek said some are now fearful new educators will leave within one or two years.

  • Some already quit in the middle of the year, choosing not to finish out their contracts.
  • "We are in a real tough position," Beranek said.

By the numbers: As of Jan. 3, there are at least 128 full-time openings for teachers and administrators in central Iowa.

  • When you factor in special education associates and support staff, that number jumps to 290, according to Teach Iowa.

What needs to change: A solution to better retention is emphasizing the state's existing Teacher Leadership & Compensation System, said Ryan Wise, education dean at Drake University and former director of the state Department of Education.

  • The program already has a system in place that gives teachers opportunities to become leaders, help their peers and earn more money.

Yes, but: Mentors who are supposed to offer guidance in classrooms are now getting pulled to teach themselves, Wise said.

The next step: Attracting new people may require lowering the barriers of entry into the field, such as licensure and higher education costs.

  • For the upcoming legislative session, Wise said he hopes lawmakers use COVID relief funds to create grants that ease extra costs.
  • He also wants them to be mindful of how their controversial debates on issues like masks or books influence retention.

What they're saying: "Yes, there is a teacher shortage. At the same time, we need to also have a spirit of optimism around the opportunities that exist and really the calling that I think many people, young people especially, have to give back," Wise said.

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