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Education group says Tennessee teacher shortage could get worse with pandemic

Posted at 3:24 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 19:52:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Even though many school districts have already had their first day of school, there is still a need to fill many teaching positions across the state. But many education advocates say Tennessee has been facing a teacher shortage even before the pandemic.

From Wilson to Rutherford to Metro Nashville public schools. there is a need for teachers. But JC Bowman, executive director of the Professional Educators of Tennessee says we’re dealing with a teacher shortage during a pandemic.

"In the beginning, we were seeing teachers saying for the amount of money being paid, it’s not worth my health risk," said Bowman, "We already had a teacher shortage in special education. We had a teacher shortage in math and science. We’re seeing other teachers walking away, some in elementary and some other areas walking away from teaching."

Before COVID-19, salary and school funding was the biggest deterrents. Bowman says it’s still those issues coupled with the fears of the coronavirus.

"We’re already are in the short-end of finding people. COVID-19 is going to escalate it."

Education professionals say it’s not just teaching positions that a lot of schools are having a hard time feeling but also substitutes.

"We cannot find enough substitute teachers to come into our schools, the minimum amount of money we pay them; substitute teachers are saying hey it’s not worth my health risk," said Bowman.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has more than 90 open positions the majority of those being teachers. Bowman says if districts can’t fill them they may be forced to look elsewhere.

"You’re going to see them go outside the state and it will be virtual and they’ll bring people in with no experience in Tennessee," said Bowman.

Professional Educators of Tennessee believes the substitute teacher shortage will be critical across the country this school year.