Schools Had An Easier Time Finding Staff This Year
More staff, fewer shortages
As of the September data from the BLS, there were about 155,000 more people working in public K-12 education this year compared to the same time last year.
We’ve been in a growth period ever since the summer of 2020. Schools are still reporting higher-than-normal vacancy rates, but they are also hiring more people than they lose.
How hard is hiring this year compared to last year? In which schools and for which roles? There didn’t use to be good national data on this, but the NCES School Pulse Panel now has two years of comparable data, so we can compare the 2022 versus the 2023 hiring season.
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Those numbers suggest that hiring was just a little bit easier this year than it was last year. Last year, 53% of respondents said their school was understaffed heading into the school year. This year, that number fell to 45%.1
Those are the overall totals, but shortage areas are also a little less dramatic this year compared to last year. The first graph below compares the percentage of respondents who said it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to fill teaching positions with fully certified teachers positions in August of 2022 (red) versus August of 2023 (gray).
As the graph shows, the numbers were down across the board this year. For general elementary teaching positions, for example, 37% said they had trouble filling those roles last year; this year, the number was down to 31%.
There continues to be much deeper shortages in certain areas than others. For example, 54% of respondents said they had trouble filling special education roles this year, compared to only 10% of respondents saying they struggled to fill physical education or health teaching roles.
Similar trends are playing out for non-teaching roles. Every single category was down from the year before.2 For example, the percentage of respondents saying they had difficulty filling transportation roles fell from 41 to 30%.
I kept the teacher and non-teacher graphs separate, but they use the same scale. In that sense it’s possible to compare them, and the hardest roles to fill overall were special education teaching positions, followed by classroom aides (not pictured) and custodial staff.
I’m taking this as moderately good news. Fewer schools reported being understaffed, and all roles were easier to fill. Some roles remain harder to fill than others, and high-poverty schools continue to have more trouble filling their roles. But August is by far the biggest month of the year for school hiring, and it went a little bit better this year than last year.
Respondents were asked if they “feel their school is understaffed.” In numeric terms, schools have fewer students and staff per student than they did pre-pandemic, so I would take these perceptions with a grain of salt.
“Classroom aides” was actually the hardest to fill non-teacher role, with 50% of schools saying they had difficulty filling those positions. But I left that out because it wasn’t included on the survey last year.