Schools across the U.S. say they are dealing with significant teacher shortages, and some principals are saying the start of the school year has been the most difficult one yet.
FOX 32 reported that suburban Illinois schools reopened this week amid a "major" shortage of teachers, with 3,600 education jobs unfilled across the state. Administrators are being called into the classroom in some districts, and several places are calling on retirees to step in and fill the voids.
But many retired educators haven't been out of the workplace for long.
A recent analysis by Tulsa World found that teacher retirements in Oklahoma were up this summer nearly 38% year-over-year.
"We have seen record numbers of retirements," Oklahoma state Rep. John Waldron, D, told the newspaper. "We are facing a chronic shortage of applicants for teaching positions, and we are certifying more and more teachers on an emergency basis. This is unsustainable."
One Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools administrator in North Carolina told WFAE-FM that teachers are quitting in "staggering" numbers – and the educators who remain are being stretched thin just as in other industries where burnout is hitting skeleton crews.
Billie Berry, the assistant superintendent of North Carolina's Iredell-Statesville Schools, told the outlet, "Even though one would think last year was tougher than this year, I've had a number of principals tell me this has been the toughest start of school."
Meanwhile, as teachers continue to flee the profession, studies show fewer college students are pursuing education degrees – a trend researchers had seen long before COVID-19 hit.
Enrollment in education programs at Louisiana colleges has fallen by nearly 8,000 students over the past two decades according to statewide enrollment data from the Louisiana Board of Regents.
The pandemic is not the sole reason why teachers are leaving the profession, but it has contributed to the burnout that has been common among educators for years.
"Teachers, because of COVID and other reasons, are under a lot of stress," teacher and president of the Lafayette Parish Association of Educators Julia Reed said at a school board meeting Oct. 6, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
Reed explained, "When I talk to them their No. 1 issue is not money; it's workload."