Localities across the state facing teacher shortages

Virginia Education Association president Jim Livingston. Credit: WRIC 8 News.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With just a few weeks before the first day of school, localities across the state are facing teacher shortages. It’s a profession that appears to be getting harder and harder to staff in Virginia.

“We’re simply not attracting young people into the teaching ranks,” Virginia Education Association president Jim Livingston said.

Livingston says throughout the state, school districts are facing teacher shortages.

“We’ve been warning, sounding the alarm, if you will, for about 10 years that we were going to reach this point,” said Livingston.

At Monday night’s Richmond school board meeting, the interim superintendent announced the city still had more than 100 teacher vacancies to fill. In Henrico County, there are currently 80 openings, and 50 more in Chesterfield County.

On Thursday, Henrico held a job fair to attract new teachers. Meanwhile, Livingston says some localities have tried to lure retired teachers back to the classroom and have also looked at career switchers to try and fill the void. It’s a void he says could get even larger in the next few years.

“We’ve been warning, sounding the alarm, if you will, for about 10 years that we were going to reach this point.”

Meanwhile, Livingston says some localities have tried to lure retired teachers back to the classroom and have also looked at career switchers to try and fill the void. It’s a void he says could get even larger in the next few years.

“Within the next five years, almost 50 percent of the teaching force in Virginia will be eligible for retirement,” he said.

Part of the problem he says has been teacher salaries.

“We’re 32nd in the nation with regard to average teacher salary; 32nd. We’re in the bottom 50 percent,” Livingston explained.

He says Virginia is simply losing teachers to surrounding states.

“We have surrounding states that are out competing us with regard to recruiting and retaining teachers,” Livingston said.

As for solutions, he offered this. “Candidly, it’s going to cost some money and I think that’s the reality.”

Despite the shortages and lower salaries, a new survey released a few weeks ago by the personal finance website Wallethub ranked Virginia 6th in the country for the overall quality and safety of schools.