Aug 11, 2022 - News

Richmond area needs teachers

Illustration of a teacher's chalkboard with "Now Hiring" written across it.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

By the end of the month, most students across the Richmond area will be back in the classroom, yet districts across the region are still collectively in need of more than 600 teachers.

Why it matters: The school year starts in Chesterfield on Aug. 22, with Richmond and Henrico starting classes the following week and Hanover beginning after Labor Day.

Driving the news: School districts across the country are facing unprecedented numbers of teacher vacancies. Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, told the Washington Post this week the teacher shortage is the worst he's ever seen.

By the numbers: As of this week, the biggest districts in the region tell Axios they need to hire:

  • 243 teachers in Chesterfield.
  • 211 teachers in Henrico.
  • 163 teachers in Richmond.

The latest statewide figures, from last October, show there are 2,563 unfilled teaching positions, according to the Virginia Department of Education. In 2019, it was 1,063.

What's happening: The pandemic, burnout, the COVID achievement gap from remote learning, the contentious state tip line for reporting "inherently divisive" teaching, and the increasing politicization of education are all factors in teachers leaving the profession, per the Virginia Mercury.

  • But there's also a far more common job-change driver at work: pay.

What they're saying: "It's clear, as Virginia pays its teachers nearly $6,800 less than the national average salary for teachers, that the commonwealth must make quality teaching and learning conditions in our state a top investment priority," James Fedderman, president of the state's teacher's union, tells Axios.

Threat level: The average annual salary for teachers in Virginia — regardless of education, tenure or district — was $58,000, compared with the national average of $65,293, according to a 2022 National Education Association report.

Of note: Teachers and other state employees will get a 10% raise over the next two years in the latest budget, but some educators say it isn't enough.

"We can do far better than we're doing," Fedderman said.

Meanwhile: With the school year slated to start, local districts tell Axios they've been holding summer job fairs to try to lure non-teachers into the field as well as asking retired teachers to come back.

But for the biggest effort to get new Richmond-area teachers, districts are looking outside of the region — and in some cases, outside of the state.

Chesterfield County said it is boosting job ads on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn to reach applicants from farther away, as well as working with universities outside of Richmond to try to identify future teachers.

Richmond Public Schools launched an ad campaign statewide and beyond — with radio ads, billboards and social media promotion — to bring in new teachers from as far away as Raleigh.

The Richmond School Board recently approved money to help make the move more enticing, including:

  • $6,000 for moving costs for teachers at least 50 miles outside of Richmond.
  • $4,000 signing bonus for experienced educators.
  • And a $2,000 one for new teachers.

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