Critical Teacher Shortage Challenges Arkansas School Districts


Leo Thompson, Editor

The 2022 school year has offered some unique challenges for districts across the country, with teachers quitting in droves and opting to retire early. Many schools were left scrambling to find new teachers to fill needed roles, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find qualified teachers who are up to the task. 

This has created a massive burden for states across the country who have had to find creative solutions to make sure students have an adequate number of educators. State education leaders have quickly removed the requirements needed for people to become a teacher, including Arkansas which has allowed anyone with a Bachelor’s Degree to get a job placement within the classroom of any district that has applied for a waiver. This move stripped away the extensive training that was once a prerequisite for all Arkansan educators. The state of Florida made headlines with their decision to allow military veterans to work in schools without any certifications traditionally required to serve in the classroom. 

The teaching shortage caused many in Arkansas to call for an increase in teacher pay, in the hopes that this would ease the exodus of teachers leaving the profession. While the state legislature opted out of voting to approve a salary raise for educators, they recommended that  $460 million of unused COVID-19 funding be allocated to teacher’s salaries, which would allow for a $5,000 one-time bonus for certified staff, and a $2,500 one-time bonus for classified staff. 

This plan has  been heavily criticized by some within the state, with some districts saying that they don’t have the funds to spare. Others have said that they have been told from day one to not use it on teacher’s salaries, and to instead apply it to projects within the school districts. Some small schools across the state see the bonuses as too expensive for rural schools with smaller budgets to implement. 

Teachers at Buffalo Island Central were recently informed by Superintendent Gaylon Taylor that the school will distribute bonuses to BIC staff. Mr.  Taylor expressed hopes that this can help alleviate some of the teacher shortages across the state and country. 

“Anything we can do to help teachers will be a positive thing, especially after what they’ve gone through in education the past few years,” said Taylor.

Mr. Taylor went on to explain that schools were originally told that they could not use this funding for teacher pay, but many schools are happy to see the rules for allocating federal funds change so that districts can reinvest in educators. 

With overall enrollment in college education classes down across the country, many are left wondering how severe this problem might become. It is still left to be seen if the stop-gap measures implemented by the Department of Education will be enough to stop the downhill trajectory of the educator market in our area.