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Teacher shortage is currently ‘the worst I’ve ever seen,’ union president says

·Reporter
·3 min read

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) found that 79% of preK-12 grade educators are dissatisfied with their jobs.

Randi Weingarten, AFT president, joined Yahoo Finance Live (video above) to discuss a teacher shortage situation she referred to as “the worst I’ve ever seen.”

'Political Attacks, Shortages, School Shootings, and flatlining Salaries'

The AFT research result collected by an independent third party found that teachers’ sentiments toward education were worsened by pandemic challenges and increasing political wars in the last two years.

Weingarten shared that teachers did their best to power through the pandemic but were met with frustrations and lack of assistance from the system:

“The pandemic teachers were amazing," Weingarten said. "They moved to remote [sic] with many of them not having really good platforms. You could hear they engaged kids. Parents were very, very grateful. But what has happened is that the politics and politicians have really polluted what goes on with teachers right now."

Supporters of wearing masks in schools Sofia Deyo 11, and her brother Matthew Deyo 6, protest before the special called school board workshop at the Pinellas County Schools Administration Building in Largo, Florida, U.S., August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones
Supporters of wearing masks in schools Sofia Deyo 11, and her brother Matthew Deyo 6, protest before the special called school board workshop at the Pinellas County Schools Administration Building in Largo, Florida, U.S., August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Octavio Jones

The political conflicts battled across the nation included mask mandates, culture wars, book banning, and school shootings, the July 11 AFT press release shows.

The report highlighted that educators increasingly feared gun violence in schools since the Uvalde, Texas tragedy. Now “nearly half of all members are concerned about a mass shooting,” it reads.

Furthermore, morale is at an all-time low as conspiracy theorists publicly attack teachers. Weingarten said teachers face “constant hectoring, being called pedophiles, being called groomers, wondering whether whatever they said, whether they were going to be pulled into a principal’s office if they answered a kid’s question.”

Forty-percent of teachers expressed they would like to leave the profession within two years, given the depressing and hostile ambiance, according to Weingarten.

Union Wants Fair Compensation

Amidst the hurdles faced by teachers in America, Weingarten said politicians are not funneling enough support. Namely, some states are not compensating their teachers fairly due to political influences even though President Biden’s American Rescue Plan budgeted for an increase in teacher salaries. This increase would agree ‘in terms of the rest of the economy.’

Minneapolis school teachers hold placards during the strike in front of the Justice Page Middle school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Minneapolis school teachers hold placards during the strike in front of the Justice Page Middle school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States on March 8, 2022. (Photo by Kerem Yucel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“We shouldn’t be having the fights like we have in New York," Weingarten said. "There’s $4 billion that’s left in President Biden’s Rescue Plan. And the mayor in New York is not actually lowering class size, is doing cuts instead. So what’s happened is that the normal politics have now gotten worse by the electoral politics.”

As the union representative, Weingarten believed that teachers across the nation will be pushing for salary bumps.

“You saw that a little bit last year in Minnesota, in Scranton, Pennsylvania," she said. "But you’re going to see a lot of that this year through collective bargaining.”

Weingarten believes this is what the industry deserves.

"We already ask teachers to take money out of their pockets to pay for supplies of kids." she said. "No other profession does that. But we need to give them a raise. And we need to get them the conditions that they need so that they can help kids thrive."

Rebecca Chen is a writer and reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @RebeccaChenP

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