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Will There Be Teaching Jobs When Schools Reopen?

A middle-aged chemistry teachers guides his students through some hands-on experiments.

Teachers are needed now more than ever, but teaching careers are undergoing some big changes!

New teachers might be wondering whether there will be teaching jobs available when schools reopen later this year. Interview season for teachers usually begins in the spring and extends through the summer until all positions are filled—but many districts weren't thinking about hiring this spring. They were focused on figuring out how to work with students after schools were closed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Training teachers in remote learning and providing students access to technology have been priorities. And schools that provide federally funded breakfast and lunch for kids have been struggling. While some schools posted jobs and virtually interviewed candidates for essential positions, a lot of schools put it on the back burner.

Further Reading: Remote Teaching Resource Center

Here are some things that educators are considering as they discuss the next school year.

Hiring and Budget Cuts

Besides focusing on providing services, many schools have put off hiring because their financial picture is still unclear, Daarel Burnette wrote in Education Week. Burnette and others predict that many school districts will see a significant drop in state aid. Rising unemployment will slash the amount of money states will collect in sales tax and income tax, which many school districts rely on for funding. Districts with little to no property tax revenue will be the most affected, Burnette posits.

Some schools have already frozen staff raises for next year; some have had to shelve new programs. USA Today reported that, during the last week of April, 62 superintendents representing the country's largest school districts asked Congress for about $200 billion to support budgets, buy more technology, and better serve students from low-income households and students with special needs. Whether they'll receive that money is unknown.

School Staffing

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association (NEA), said the economy can't be reopened until schools are reopened.

"Educators and parents are making their voice heard to ensure that students do not pay the price in this crisis," she said. "And we can't reopen schools until students have what they need to be safe, to learn and succeed."

Some parents, she points out, can't go back to work if their kids aren't in school. The NEA has also been calling for more federal funds to help schools reopen.

"The whole thing is overwhelming," Dan Weisberg, head of TNTP, a nonprofit that helps districts recruit and hire teachers, told USA Today. Whatever challenges exist when schools reopen, he said, "are going to be way worse if schools are not fully staffed."

Older Teachers and COVID-19

When schools do reopen, older and more experienced teachers could decide that the threat of contracting coronavirus is too great, wrote Andre Perry in The Hechinger Report. Perry predicts that retirement-eligible teachers might retire rather than risk their health. About 18 percent of all teachers are 55 or older, and older adults are more at risk of contracting COVID-19.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told Education Week that students might need to attend school on alternate days to maintain social distance and mitigate the risk to teachers. Teachers with underlying conditions might be able to teach remotely. And if a teacher's pension is protected, Weingarten added, early retirement could be an option.

Michigan teacher Cossondra George, for example, turns 59 this summer. She has asthma and tells Education Week that the idea of returning to school in the fall has led to "lots of sleepless nights."

Opening schools has to be "a really well-thought-out process," she said. But like a lot of older teachers, she currently has a lot more questions than answers.

Increasing Support for Students

According to the Learning Policy Institute, 10 percent of teachers leave the profession every year—but the percentage varies widely by region. Some educators predict an increased need for teachers, counselors, and other professionals to help students cope with the time lost and the expected changes to how schools operate. The Learning Policy Institute also expects that students will need some kind of extended learning time to catch up, and it suggests lengthening school days—or holding school on weekends—to get kids back on track.

Some states are anticipating teacher shortages—and instituting plans to staff classrooms. To help with the state's impending teacher shortage, StateImpact Oklahoma reports, Oklahoma's state school board agreed to award a one-time, single-year certificate to teachers who were on track to earn their certification but couldn't finish their student teaching or take final exams.

As ever, shortages, retirements, and attrition will create open positions. Schools may recognize that students may need more support when schools reopen, but whether they can provide it will depend on how much financial aid state and federal governments provide.

Looking Ahead

In an interview with Education Week, John A. Mirra, a human resources officer with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, estimated that he hired 750 teachers last year. He expects to hire about the same number this year. But the Vancouver Public Schools district in Washington is only hiring essential workers right now, district spokesperson Patricia Nuzzo tells Education Week.

Further Reading: How to Nail a Teacher Phone Interview

The closer we get to fall, the clearer the job picture will be. New teachers looking for jobs need to stay on top of openings posted on school district websites. One thing is certain: The majority of applications for teaching jobs will be online, and the majority of interviews will be virtual.