More than one and a half million students fled public K-12 schools by the 2020-21 school year, compared with the year before. This sharp decline in enrollment has not been the only blow to public schools. Education employee shortages abound in all 50 states.
The teacher shortage that had been increasing for years has been exacerbated, now with the third school year affected by COVID-19 underway. Shortages of school staff — ranging from paraeducators, before and after school workers, custodians, crossing guards, and bus drivers — are helping wreak havoc on daily operations.
Despite the decreased student enrollment, teacher and staff shortages have outpaced the downturn. And they aren’t going away anytime soon. As of July 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 460,000 job vacancies in state and local education — nearly tripling the 156,000 openings in July 2020. Despite offering increased salaries, signing bonuses, and other incentives to recruit and retain staff, the shortages persist.
As a result, district staff members and school administrators have been forced to dramatically shift their workdays. Some districts have reinstated remote classes, while others have resorted to closing schools for periods of time when a sufficient number of teachers, support staff, and substitutes was not available to support basic operations.
K-12 public education is not alone in the worker shortage. According to a September report by McKinsey & Company, more than 15 million American workers called it quits just since April 2021. The international situation is no better. Forty percent of their survey respondents from a sampling including Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States are “at least somewhat likely to quit in the next three to six months.”
Nearly two-thirds of those respondents said they would be willing to leave even without having another job in hand. Looking at the education sector specifically, 32 percent reported they were at least “somewhat likely” to quit their jobs.
What is running educators out of our K-12 public education system? Public school teachers are significantly more likely than average Americans to hold leftist views, which likely bolstered the number of educators refusing to return to work due to extreme COVID hysteria.
Additionally, rigid teacher certification laws, seniority-based pay structures, vaccine mandates, and extreme fearmongering by teachers unions and politicians portraying schools as dangerous Delta-variant spreading environments will help prevent K-12 public education from attracting new teachers. Meanwhile, many of the few conservatives in public education are being pushed out thanks to radical politics they are being forced to teach (and sometimes fired for opposing).
Today, our public school classrooms are far from functioning as primarily academic environments. The focus on ensuring students gain solid literacy, math, and critical thinking skills has been replaced by a preoccupation with far-left political agendas. The American flag is all too often displaced by the rainbow “gay pride” flag, the transgender flag, or the Black Lives Matters flag, while pro-police flags are banned.
Groups like Trans Student Educational Resources push gender confusion by replacing “male” and “female” with a host of created alternatives. Elsewhere, students are awash in everything from gender self-selection and pronoun speech codes to opposite-sex access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic teams.
Public school radicalism deeply extends into social studies, where teaching actual civics has been scrapped in favor of anti-American narratives like that of The 1619 Project. Under the divisive concepts of critical race theory, children, teachers, and staff are divided into opposing “oppressor” and “oppressed” race categories — turning on its head the courageous work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who sought unity and brotherhood across racial lines.
Sadly, even mathematical truths such as 2 + 2 = 4 have been targeted by accusations that such teaching “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.” Many schools now employ new woke math curricula inspired by the postmodern view that each person has an equal right to define truth. Of course, believing this will handicap students mathematically for life.
Until public schools recognize and address the reasons students and staff are taking flight, they won’t be able to recover the loss of those they have exhausted and alienated. And there’s little doubt that the longer K-12 public schools stay the current course, the greater the employee and student exodus will be.
It’s time we take back K-12 public education from those who foster an anti-American mindset and promote false realities that leave our students confused and ill-prepared for life. That includes expanding school choice for parents to choose the schools they believe will best serve their children. It also warrants courageously taking a stand, and working to stop the radical indoctrination that dominates public school classrooms at the expense of quality academic instruction.