This story originally appeared online at NC Policy Watch.
On the first day of school in August, North Carolina public schools reported a 46% increase in teacher vacancies over the previous year. A look at the 40e day showed a 58% increase in teaching vacancies.
Data from a new report released Wednesday at the State Board of Education’s monthly meeting shows the state has 5,540 vacancies on the first day of school, up from 3,792 vacancies the previous year.
Read the full report on the State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina 2021-2022 by clicking here.
On the 40e school day, there were 5,091 vacancies compared to 3,213 in the 2021-22 school year.
Teaching vacancies have been a major concern for school leaders in recent years, mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers leaving the profession cited low pay and pandemic-related trauma. And some teachers share that the culture war over critical race theory, LGBTQ issues and book bans have left them disrespected and undervalued.
This week, Andrew Houlihan, the Union County Schools Superintendent, told attendees of the North Carolina Public Schools Forum Eggs & Issues that teacher vacancies have hit his district hard this year.
Houlihan said his district is doing very well and hasn’t traditionally had recruiting or retention issues.
“Until about two years ago when we looked around the room and said, ‘Oh my God,’ we couldn’t find a kindergarten teacher,” he said.
Under state law, a teaching position is considered vacant if it is not filled by a permanently assigned licensed teacher; completed by a long-term substitute or interim teacher or completed by a teacher with an emergency license, teacher’s permit or provisional license.
Thomas Tomberlin, senior director of educator readiness, licensing and performance at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said the vacancy rate is overstated.
Tomberlin said 3,660 people with teaching permits or provisional licenses are teaching, but the positions are considered vacant because they do not meet the definition of a permanent teacher.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that it could be interpreted as there’s this massive increase in vacancies across the state,” Tomberlin said. “What has changed is that we have applied the methodology prescribed by law so that we report accurately to the General Assembly on the state of our teaching profession.”
Schools have had the hardest time filling K-5 vacancies in core subjects such as math, reading, science and social studies. There were 1,224 vacancies in these subjects. Vacancies in K-12 programs for exceptional children were also difficult to fill.
The report showed North Carolina’s teacher attrition rate held steady at 7.78%. That’s 7,928 out of almost 93,832 teachers. The attrition rate represents a slight decrease compared to the previous year when it was 8.20%. That year, 7,736 of the 94,342 teachers left public schools in the state. Most teachers cite “personal reasons” for their departure.
“My report to you, the board, is that attrition in the state of North Carolina is one of the most stable metrics we have,” Tomberlin said. “It’s every year about the same number every year.”
Teacher mobility, which shows educators moving from school to school in the state, increased slightly from 3.31% in the 2021-22 school year. The rate was 3.24% the previous year.
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