NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s no secret Tennessee has a teacher shortage.
“It’s pretty alarming,” Paige La Grone Babcock said. “We have had these shortfalls each and every year.”
La Grone Babcock teaches sixth and seventh grade English language arts in Nashville. Up until last week, it was only supposed to be sixth. Though she’s excited to have both, the change is indicative of the fact that with fewer teachers, those in the mix have to pick up the slack.
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“That is precisely what happens,” La Grone Babcock said. “When we don’t have the hires, when we don’t have the boots on the ground, we don’t have our district fully staffed, individuals must take on more work.”
Between the five major areas across Tennessee, there are 1,064 teacher openings, according to each district recruitment website.
Davidson County has the most at 371, followed by Shelby at 334. Knox County has 148 with Hamilton at 145. The Tri-Cities (Washington, Sullivan, and Hawkins Counties) combine for 66 openings. Those numbers don’t include support staff or faculty.
“Not paying teachers correctly, not respecting our profession,” Tennessee Education Association President Tanya Coats said. “Then just ensuring that we don’t have the nurses or the counselors or sometimes even the bus drivers and the cafeteria workers and hardworking superintendents that are trying to do their very best for their teachers in their classrooms.”
The notion is something La Grone Babcock agreed with.
“Teachers are not greedy. Teachers simply want to be remunerated for the education and the time that they’ve been put in to be experts on their content and experts on people,” she said. “People are not microwaves, we are not technicians that are tinkering away at these static things. We are teaching real live children.”
“We just passed the largest teacher pay raise in our state’s history. We’re making a lot of efforts, we need more teachers,” Lee said. “Teaching is a calling.”
He also noted better recruiting is a must.
“I think we can never stop. There won’t be enough done until we don’t have a teacher shortage. It’s a nationwide issue,” Lee said. “We have created a lot of initiatives.”
La Grone Babcock agreed the pay raise would help, but she pointed out it’s pretty small relative to inflation. Plus, she pointed to the fact that the state also attached a union-busting amendment to it.
“It’s very much a slap in the face,” La Grone Babcock said. “It’s saying, ‘We cannot take your dues out of your paycheck. You’re going to have to do these extra steps, which then do not allow you to unionize that is accessible for everyone as quickly as possible. But we’re going to give you a little bit of money,’ and it’s not even all that much money.”