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Young Prince William County students walk in to Bennett Elementary School in Manassas on the first day of the 2022-23 school year.

Virginia has more teachers leaving the workforce than newly licensed teachers entering it, according to a report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. 

Data show that 10,900 teachers left the workforce ahead of the current school year, while only 7,208 teachers with first-time licenses were hired. 

The finding was part of a broader study by the commission on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on students and staff in K-12 public schools.

“This is a major, substantial report from a nonpartisan arm of our legislature and it clearly points to the fact that significant new investments are needed to meet student needs and address our major teacher shortage,” said Chad Stewart, a policy analyst for the Virginia Education Association. “And the administration will show us how seriously they’re ready to respond to these recommendations based on what they choose to put into their update to the budget come December.”

JLARC found that “prior to the pandemic, there were about 800 vacant teaching positions statewide, on average.” That number rose “substantially” to about 2,800 vacant positions in October 2021 and 3,300 as of mid-August 2022.

“The majority of divisions (86 of 131) had higher teacher turnover between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school year when compared with before the pandemic,” JLARC found. Turnover increased the most in Highland, King and Queen and Southampton counties, while vacancy rates in fall 2021 were highest in Franklin City, at 32%, and Norfolk, at 17%. 

School divisions have relied on provisionally licensed teachers to fill vacant positions, JLARC found. During the 2021-22 school year, 9.5% of the overall teacher workforce were provisionally licensed teachers, up from 7.7% pre-pandemic. Out-of-field teachers, or those who teach a subject matter that differs from their area of certification, grew from 2.4% of the workforce pre-pandemic to 6.2% in 2021-22.

To address teacher shortages, the commission recommended providing additional funding to school divisions with increased teacher turnover for retention and signing bonuses and offering tuition assistance for provisional license holders to become fully licensed.

Low pay and increased behavioral and mental health issues among students have contributed to lower job satisfaction for teachers, JLARC staff said. Teachers also cited a higher workload due to vacancies and a lack of respect from parents and the public as sources of dissatisfaction.

Staff said when students returned to in-person learning, teachers found classroom behaviors, student absences and reported mental health issues had worsened.

Data show high vacancy rates for school psychologists, as well as a 19% chronic absenteeism rate among students statewide.

Staff recommended lawmakers provide school divisions with funding for training on behavioral issues and classroom management.

They also suggested lawmakers consider amending state law to clearly define direct school counseling to help reduce the amount of time counselors spend on non-counseling activities, and to allow qualified and licensed psychologists in other fields to be provisionally licensed.

Virginia lawmakers have taken a variety of approaches to addressing teacher shortages.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly funded 5% raises for teachers in the next two years, one-time $1,000 bonuses and teacher signing bonuses.

In September, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive directive outlining plans to address teacher shortages through steps such as hiring retired educators.

Student academic achievement also declined during the pandemic, particularly in reading and mathematics. Last month, fourth- and eighth-grade results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed declines in Virginia in both reading and math between 2019 and 2022.

However, JLARC found that Virginia lacks a program to specifically address the decline in elementary student math and recommended lawmakers consider creating and funding a temporary program for students who fail their math Standards of Learning tests.

Youngkin has also announced plans to combat learning loss through a $30 million investment in learning recovery grants and new partnerships with two national groups to provide educational resources and tutoring services.

Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said officials should use JLARC’s data as a “flashlight and not as a hammer.”

Democratic Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, disagreed with the notion that learning losses are entirely due to the pandemic. She said “the achievement gap did not start as a consequence of the pandemic. The achievement gaps were there prior to the pandemic, and the pandemic exacerbated the problem.”


Courtesy of Virginia Mercury.

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(5) comments

James Bailey

Fix, I am adding this as I can not edit my comments here. I taught for 40 years and not one time did a school board or principal, or superintendent try to silence me or my fellow teachers.

James Bailey

Fix, I am very interested in your characterizations of school boards and superintendents. Why don't you provide evidence to support your dubious claim that school boards are slime and superintendents are ego driven? School board is an elected position, you should run for it . . .but then you would have to explain your decisions. That is something you are not able to do when name calling is so much easier and lazier. Why do you say superintendents are ego driven when they are doing the job they were hired to do. I suspect you name call anyone with whom you disagree. Can you do better than superintendents----who used to teach.

Fix Prince William

Mr. Bailey, I group the Super. in with the school board as selfish slime. Why? Because their concern does not lie within student improvement but within bolstering their own political resume. If you have students in these schools, or you attend school board meetings, or you know anyone who works in the school system, all these students are doing is being tested to death--especially in the elementary schools. Dr. McData is so laser-focused in on finding the golden nugget of numbers that prove her equity BS is working. We are spending millions of dollars on this initiative only to have our students be quizzed on minute learning standards instead of working on critical thinking, application of mathematical concepts, and--most importantly--giving students agency of their own learning. How can a student own their learning and grow independently when marched into school ala "Another Brick in the Wall"? As for the School Board, Lateef and his cronies? Come on. Have you HEARD Lisa Zargapur, Adele Jackson and Lori Williams speak? They are clowns. Wilke? And King Babur? Their agenda is cutting the budget. They should begin with Central Office.

Since Dr. McData's hire, the number of KLC $100k+ number crunchers for these tests have multiplied. And it's going to get worse. Do you really think this is what our kids need? This is not a conservative/liberal issue. You claim Dr. McDade can be an effective super. because she taught? If that's the case, why does she and the School Board ignore teachers regarding the kids' needs…since people with teaching experience can make important educational decisions. She is aloof, and so is the school board. The culture war many people are waging on bathrooms and books is a distraction from the most important part that Benedict addressed: Math and Reading. They need to stop testing the kids to death, and stop expanding this certain-to-fail equity initiative, and start working with teachers instead of examining garbage data from their ivory tower.

Paul Benedict

Who the heck would want to be a teacher? The administration will not support you if you stand up to violent or disobedient students. If you do stand up to violent kids you will have mad parents after your butt, administrators suspending or firing you, and fellow teachers afraid to say a word in your defense (They will just keep quiet and pretend they don't know anything happened). The administration wants teachers to deny science and pretend that girls can be boys and boys can be girls. Teacher unions do not tolerate teachers who have political or religious beliefs not approved of by their thug leadership. Many parents don't participate in their kid's education because they doped up and tuned out. And the parents that do participate are often treated like domestic terrorists, especially by school leadership. Teachers must pretend that children are to be treated differently based on the color of their skin. They have to have multiple levels of expectations and discipline depending on the victimhood status of the student in question. Screw up and you are labeled a racist.

Fix Prince William

Paul, agreed.

No one is more equipped to fix the schools than the teachers. But the slimy school board along with ego-tripping superintendents silence the teachers at every point. If they would hand the reins over to them, maybe they we could move in a better direction.

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