As the new school year approaches, West Virginia school districts are already facing a teacher shortage. WVEA President Dale Lee thinks the problem will only get worse this fall.
“I project those numbers to be over 1,500 this coming school year,” he said. In 2021, the West Virginia Department of Education reported 1,196 teacher vacancies statewide. According to President Lee, the vacancies are widespread across all different grade levels. “Before we used to hear it’s only math and science. No. It’s first grade classes, kindergarten, social studies, phys. ed., health. Every discipline across the curriculum we’re having shortages,” said President Lee.
Many teachers cite an increasing workload, concerns for safety and low pay. Teacher shortages are being reported across the nation. “West Virginia needs to offer competitive salaries to keep teachers in the state. When you can make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more by simply driving 30 minutes across the border, we’re going to have those problems,” he said.
There is a lack of certified teachers who specialize in certain subjects. Teachers also act as social workers and nurses, making it a stressful job with little compensation. “About 50 percent of the people entering the profession leave the profession within the first five years,” said President Lee.