Aug 23, 2022 - News

Staff shortages lead to school program cuts in Des Moines

Illustration of a teacher's chalkboard with "Now Hiring" written across it.
Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Metro Kids Care before- and after-school programs aren't being offered at three Des Moines elementaries due to staffing shortages, district spokesperson Phil Roeder tells Axios.

  • More than 350 students remain on Metro Kids' wait list.

Why it matters: It's one example of how a staffing crisis is affecting school services across the state, Margaret Buckton of the Urban Education Network tells us.

Catch up fast: A teacher shortage is a national problem being linked to burnout, low wages and increasing demands, Axios' Erica Pandey and Allison Snyder report.

By the numbers: As of Monday, DMPS had at least 105 unfilled positions, including 44 teachers and 34 special education instructors, Roeder said.

  • Statewide, schools had more than 5,000 positions open, according to Teach Iowa, a service through the Iowa Department of Education.
  • That includes more than 1,100 full-time classroom positions, mostly teachers.

Of note: More than 95% of DMPS' full-time positions are filled, including teachers, Roeder said.

What’s happening: School starts Wednesday in DSM and the unfilled classroom positions will be covered with a combination of long-term substitutes or by reassigning teachers, Roeder said.

  • Of 23 Metro Kids Care sites, the Garton, Willard and Wright elementary locations will not open until the district finds enough staff.
  • The district was able to provide transportation for about three dozen students to nearby schools that still offer the Kids Care program.

The big picture: DMPS' staffing shortage is problematic but it's not an anomaly. Cedar Rapids — which has about half as many students as DMPS — has more than 150 open positions, according to the district’s website.

  • Ankeny, Johnston and Urbandale had five or more full-time classroom positions listed Monday by Teach Iowa.

What we're watching: Two legislative changes this year should help ease school staffing shortages, Buckton said.

  • Students no longer must pass a college exit exam to become an Iowa teacher. As a result, there are more pending licenses that could be approved in coming weeks.
  • Earning limitations for employees in the state retirement system who return to work have increased, a benefit that starts four months after their initial retirements.
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