BISMARCK, N.D. – Delegates to last week’s American Federation of Teachers biennial national convention adopted a report that addresses the teacher and education support professionals shortage plaguing K-12 schools across the nation. The report, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?, is the product of the AFT’s Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force, which is comprised of 25 state affiliate and local leaders, including North Dakota United President Nick Archuleta.
The report, which is the culmination of seven months’ work, outlines targeted, practical solutions to ensure that educators have the support, tools, time, trust, and training necessary to attract people into the profession and to retain those dedicated individuals who have dedicated their professional lives to improving educational outcomes for America’s public-school children.
“Polling by the AFT, National Education Association and other national surveys simply mirror the results that we have seen in polling commissioned by ND United of educators in North Dakota,” President Archuleta said. “Teachers are less satisfied in their jobs, more frustrated by the discourse surrounding public education, and are feeling unappreciated and under-supported. It is the hope of the Task Force that our findings will help inform conversations in communities across the country as school districts struggle to solve the teacher recruitment and retention issue. We do not do anything more important than educating our future. If we do not work now to shore up our professional teaching corps, we risk dire educational outcomes in the future that will negatively impact our economy, our democracy, and our quality of life.”
The report offers research-proven solutions to reverse the shortages and revitalize the education profession, including:
• Increasing salaries and benefits and shrinking the “teacher pay penalty,” or 20 percent disparity between teacher pay, and that of college-educated non-teaching professionals
• Diversifying the educator workforce, through promising practices such as Grow-Your-Own programs and sustained mentoring;
• Lowering class sizes;
• Reducing the amount of paperwork collected for administrative purposes and districtwide reports.
The report also emphasizes treating teachers and school staff like the professionals they are, with time to plan and prepare for classes, the chance to collaborate with colleagues, the power to make day-to-day school decisions, and ongoing professional development so they can grow in their careers. It also calls for turning schools into community hubs that serve the needs of the whole child and the whole family. This means investing in community schools with wraparound services that support the needs of children and their families and is already being piloted in North Dakota.