Tennessee faces 1,200+ teaching vacancies as students return to school amid COVID-19


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – School districts all across Tennessee are in need of teachers and support staff. The state blames the pandemic for limiting traditional recruiting methods. Regardless, as classes begin, pages and pages of job postings fill websites for local school districts.

From teachers to substitutes, to bus drivers there’s a need, explained Franklin Special School District’s human resource supervisor Leslie Duke, “The challenge has been some late notices and some things that didn’t pan out at the very beginning of the year just because of everything that is going on.”

Even during a pandemic, Duke’s confident she’ll fill her open positions.

It’s a more daunting task for larger districts and, some say, not an unfamiliar problem for Tennessee schools. “We have faced chronic teacher shortages, across the state, for some time. We’re 45th in the nation for per-pupil funding,” said Amanda Kail.

As president of the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association, Kail speaks to teachers once concerned about funding now focused on COVID-19. “There is just an overwhelming amount of fear and anxiety.”

“We can’t sacrifice our teachers. We can’t sacrifice our students. People need to understand that, this is real.”

Amanda Kail, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association President

Especially, Kail said, as districts push educators to go back into the classroom. “I don’t think there are many people willing to risk their health and safety.”

So what does that mean for the more than 1,200 vacancies across the state? Kail believes virtual learning, which is the plan used by Metro Nashville Public Schools, is the only safe and equitable option to entice applicants. “We understand that online education is not ideal, in so many ways, but we have to remember that we are in an emergency situation.”

But what about the parents who have to go to work and need to send their children to school? Kail said the state needs to step up and help. “The state, again, needs to step up to provide more unemployment relief, rent relief, more humanitarian relief so people can stay home.”

A monetary inconvenience far less costly, she said, than someone paying with their life.
“That is my nightmare,” an emotional Kail continued, “I’m sorry. I get choked up. We can’t sacrifice our teachers. We can’t sacrifice our students. People need to understand that, this is real.”

If you are interested in applying for an open position, all of the jobs are listed on individual school district’s websites.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

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