Teacher Shortages, Atlanta Schools

Atlanta Schools Suffering With Mass Teacher Shortages

In Metro Atlanta schools are grappling with teacher shortages, with vacancies soaring, creating a challenging landscape for educators.

AtlantaNewsFirst reports that schools are grappling with teacher shortages in the heart of Metro Atlanta, with vacancies soaring into the triple digits, exacerbating an already challenging landscape for educators.

According to a report by the National Education Association, teacher salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation, resulting in a decline in real wages over the past decade. “Teachers are making $3,644 less than they did 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation,” the NEA report stated, shedding light on the economic challenges confronting educators.

Danielle Cummings, a seasoned educator with nine years of experience, never anticipated pursuing additional jobs alongside her teaching career. However, mounting expectations and stagnant wages have forced her to seek supplemental income to make ends meet.

“You’re passionate about your work,” Cummings remarked, reflecting on her journey in education. Yet, as the demands on teachers continue to mount without commensurate pay increases, she acknowledged the strain it places on educators. “A rubber band can only stretch so much before it breaks,” Cummings lamented, highlighting the financial pressures many in the profession face.

In response to mounting pressure, Georgia enacted its largest teacher pay raise in history in 2020, an 8% increase. However, according to the NEA, the state still lags behind the national average, ranking 41st in the nation for an average teacher’s starting salary.

Recently, in February 2024, U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona highlighted the nation’s teacher shortage as indicative of a broader problem regarding respect for educators, emphasizing the correlation between low pay and the lack of esteem for teachers. Speaking at the College of Charleston in South Carolina during a ‘Power Up’ summit hosted by the White House Initiative for Black Americans, Cardona underscored how inadequate salaries force many teachers to seek additional employment, such as driving for ride-sharing apps or taking on food service roles, to supplement their income.

Cardona pointed out that South Carolina, like many states, grapples with this issue, where starting teacher salaries hover around $38,000 to $39,000, necessitating secondary employment to make ends meet. He stressed the importance of showing respect to teachers to attract and retain them in the profession, stating, “We need to show respect to our teachers so we can keep our teachers.”

Amid the pandemic, the education sector faced significant challenges, losing 730,000 local public education jobs. However, efforts to address the teacher shortage are underway, with states receiving support through $122 billion in The American Rescue Plan and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds aimed at alleviating educator shortages.