Philly School District staff shortage compounds pandemic challenges
Philadelphia school staff members are spreading themselves thin as the district struggles to fill many vacant positions amid an ongoing worker shortage.
Driving the news: About 50 district administrative staff members will be temporarily teaching classes, monitoring cafeterias and answering phones in a handful of schools starting this week, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
State of play: The School District of Philadelphia began offering daily bonuses for substitute teachers, assistants, food service workers, librarians, secretaries and nurses last month to attract more workers.
- There are over 250 teacher vacancies and nearly 1,900 open positions in total, according to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union.
- District spokesperson Marissa Orbanek told Axios schools have seen an increase in substitutes filling in jobs in November compared to October, but she didn't provide a number.
Of note: Earlier this year, the district doubled its incentive for families to opt out of transportation services from $150 per month to $300 per month amid a bus driver shortage.
- As of Oct. 20, more than 8,160 families chose to participate in the program this school year.
The big picture: The pandemic prompted a nationwide teacher shortage.
- Nationally, there were 575,000 fewer local and state education employees in October 2021 than in February 2020, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What they're saying: Hillary Linardopoulos, a spokesperson for the teachers union, told Axios that educators "are more exhausted than ever" due to a mix of re-acclimating students to the classroom, dealing with the pandemic and working through the city's surge of gun violence.
- This is all on top of extra work because of chronic staffing issues.
The bottom line: Our education system is in a fragile place. Elementary school students ended last school year four to five months behind their expected level of academic achievement, according to a McKinsey report published in July.
- And experts say that fixing the teacher shortage, which could in turn reduce school disruptions, comes down to funding, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.
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