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Schools Across U.S. Face Essential Worker Shortage, Some May Bring In National Guard

Schools Across U.S. Face Essential Worker Shortage, Some May Bring In National Guard

School bus stop sign for children to pass - stock photo A STOP sign is out by the school bus and children can be seeing crossing the road in front of the school bus. FatCamera via Getty Images

Schools around the United States are struggling to employ essential workers such as substitute teachers, bus drivers, and cafeteria employees. 

Several states have recently come up with ways in which to get workers to take jobs at schools. Governor Charlie Baker (R-MA) recently enlisted the help of the National Guard in order to assist with the lack of bus drivers. North Carolina and Missouri are both coming up with ways to get people to stay on at schools or start new jobs there, too.

Earlier this month, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved “setting aside $10 million in federal COVID relief funds to provide bonuses to new and existing workers in school nutrition programs. School districts have been losing cafeteria workers to the private sector, leading to double-digit vacancy rates,” per The News & Observer. 

Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is allowing people who want to be substitute teachers to take an online course.

DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said the state had problems with a low amount of teachers before the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 “elevated” the issue.On the topic of substitute teacher requirements, Vandeven said, “They still have to go through all the other fingerprints, background checks, and all those other requirements that are necessary, but it just opens up one more avenue to provide substitute teachers in our schools.”

The lack of employees at schools goes even further than essential workers, but those positions are the ones many states are making efforts to fill.

As reported by The New York Times, “Some are struggling to retain counselors, teachers and principals, but a more urgent need seems to be for employees who have traditionally operated behind the scenes — cafeteria workers, bus drivers and substitute teachers — according to Chip Slaven, interim director for the National School Boards Association.”

While some contend this was a pre-pandemic problem, it appears to be getting even worse. 

The Times noted that other “low-paying industries, like restaurants” are also struggling to bring on employees, but said this is because of the pandemic without acknowledging the issue likely also has to do with the state of the economy.

Unemployment continues to be high in the United States despite the many job openings available. 

As the Associated Press reported last week, “On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that employers posted 10.9 million job openings in July — the most on records dating to 2000.”

“The unprecedented demand for workers is happening even while 8.4 million Americans are unemployed, up from 5.7 million in February 2020. And the economy is still 5.3 million jobs short of the number it had before the pandemic paralyzed the United States,” the outlet noted. 

“On Friday, the Labor Department reported that employers added just 235,000 jobs in August — only about a third of the number that economists had expected and down dramatically from around 1 million jobs that were added in June and July each,” the outlet added.

Brian Woods, a superintendent for Northside Independent School District in San Antonio told The Times there has been a funding issue for schools for years, “[b]ut now you have this federal funding. We have plenty of money. But the human capital is not there.”

The issue, then, appears to arise from people not seeking out employment in many sectors, even though there are job openings. 

While some people might be fearful of returning to workplaces where they are interacting with lots of people, or unvaccinated children who might infect them with COVID-19, the scare factor can be largely pinned on the Biden administration and the mainstream media. Both have pushed the message that the pandemic is not over, and the coronavirus is still something to fear, despite the high levels of vaccination throughout the country and the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

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