National Education Association report taps educators to identify solutions to school staffing shortages

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National Education Association report taps educators to identify solutions to school staffing shortages

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Chris Lilienthal (717) 255-7134
David Broderic (717) 255-7169

HARRISBURG, PA (Oct. 13, 2022) – A new report from the National Education Association (NEA) offers Pennsylvania a roadmap for addressing educator and other staffing shortages that have risen to crisis levels in many public schools.

NEA researchers interviewed educators and other school professionals across the nation to hear, in their own words, how staffing shortages are affecting their students, their colleagues, their schools, and their communities.

Based on that input, the report makes a variety of recommendations to reduce shortages, including:

  • Empowering public schools to offer competitive pay and benefits;
  • Expanding student debt forgiveness opportunities;
  • Increasing education funding;
  • Providing more mental health resources for staff;
  • Creating better working conditions through collective bargaining agreements; and
  • Adopting more teacher input into curriculum and school resources.

Read more about the NEA report at

Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), praised the NEA report, noting that any plan to solve staffing shortages in our schools requires long-term, evidence-based strategies.

“This report takes the long view, clearly laying out a multiyear strategy to recruit and retain highly qualified educators and support professionals,” Askey said. “This report should serve as a roadmap for school districts and lawmakers at the local, state, and federal levels as we navigate our way through this crisis.”

Frances C. Cortez Funk, a PSEA member interviewed for the NEA report, emphasized the importance of mental health supports for college students and the need for qualified staff in colleges and universities to provide those services.

“These past few years have been challenging in all levels of education,” said Cortez Funk, who serves as the director of health promotion and alcohol & other drug services at Kutztown University.

“Today’s college students are brilliant and resilient, but they have more complicated financial and mental health needs,” she said. “To meet their needs, we must have a full staff of experts in well-being, including physical and mental health, equity, and inclusion topics. When campuses can’t find or retain those professionals, our students are less likely to succeed and realize their dreams through higher education.”

A recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education indicates that more than half of the public schools surveyed in its School Pulse Panel started the 2022-23 school year understaffed. Nationwide, approximately 360,000 fewer people are working in public education than before the pandemic, according to August 2022 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor.

An NEA analysis of BLS’s Current Employment Statistics data reveals that pre-K-12 public education will not return to pre-pandemic employment numbers until August 2032 if the job growth rate of the last 12 months, about 3,000 per month, is maintained.

If implemented, the solutions put forth in the NEA report could help to fundamentally restructure our public education system into one that is inclusive, supportive, and helps our kids thrive, NEA researchers said. This report presents long-term strategies and solutions that have had proven success in specific schools, districts, and states.

NEA President Becky Pringle called the educator shortage “a five-alarm crisis,” noting that earlier this year, a nationwide NEA survey revealed that 55% of educators are considering leaving the profession earlier than planned.

“Every student, no matter their race, ZIP code, or background, deserves caring, qualified, committed educators,” Pringle said. “And every educator needs our fierce support to inspire imagination, curiosity, and a love of learning as well as to provide the skills students need to thrive and pursue the jobs and careers they want.

“Too often people want a silver bullet solution or will implement a Band-Aid approach. These shortages are severe. They are chronic. And the educator shortages that are gripping our public schools, colleges and universities will only be fixed with systematic, sustained solutions.”

An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 177,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.