NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – It’s one of the most rewarding professions you can get into. Teachers can impact lives from a young age, so why are so many people closing the door on the opportunity or leaving before they can get started?
Teacher shortages are impacting school districts across Connecticut.
“The rewards are great when the job is done, but it’s been a long road, and it’s just going to get harder,” said Georgann Stokes, a Cromwell teacher.
There’s a call for help from those educating our children.
“Unless you’re a veteran, I think you’re going to lose it. I don’t think there’s an easy way to cope with it,” said David Abate, a Hamden High School science teacher.
Abate echoed the needs of teachers statewide, working to meet demanding curriculum, more students without the classroom helpers they once had, and earning a salary barely higher than those starting.
School districts statewide are reporting a record number of teaching and paraprofessional vacancies this school year as they leave for higher-paying districts or new careers altogether. College students barely make it into the field before realizing it’s not for them.
There are roughly 1,221 teaching vacancies, with 25% in special education. The bigger hit is paraprofessionals, with more than 1,300 vacancies and 73% of those in special education.
“We’re being asked to do more with less every single year,” Stokes said. “It’s impacting teachers’ mental health. It’s impacting students’ mental health.”
News 8 sat down with Shuana Tucker with the Connecticut State Department of Education to find out what’s being done to tackle the issue.
“In the short term, we have provided emergency certifications to our districts. We’re hoping to see those carry over for a third year,” Tucker said.
They are allowing districts to move teachers around where needed, outreach to college students to get them working in the classrooms sooner, and raising awareness of scholarship money available to them.
So, what about the long term?
“I would hope our legislature and education committee would really take a look at the starting salary of teachers and really look at what some other states are doing, possibly thinking about equating that salary,” Tucker said. “It would also decrease the amount of people who are changing districts.”
Getting more helpers in the door and a decent paycheck in their hands to keep them there, teachers say something must be done and soon.
“I don’t know what I’ll be walking into the next day,” Abate said.
Stokes told the state’s Board of Education there’s only so much more they can take.