by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops published an opinion piece in Carolina Journal centering on the reported vacancies in North Carolina public schools. Dr. Stoops writes:
During the first few weeks of every new school year, the mainstream media and public–school advocacy organizations proclaim North Carolina has a severe teacher shortage.
…A good example of the typical teacher shortage story recently aired on Fox 8 in the Triad. Reporter Michelle Wolf cautions that “school year starts in three weeks, and districts across the Triad still have a few hundred teaching vacancies to fill.”
The Guilford County Schools alone had 117 teaching vacancies at the time of the report.
Dr. Stoops explains, while these vacancies might at first appear highly problematic, they are not as concerning when put into context. Stoops explains:
Even a cursory assessment of the differences between listed and actual vacancies or historical trends would show there’s little cause for concern. According to data collected by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, Guilford County Schools had a teacher vacancy rate of 0.6 percent in 2018, that is, 31 vacancies out of 4,840 teaching positions in the 71,000- student district. There’s no reason to believe this year’s vacancy rate will be significantly higher. Around a week before school began, the number of teacher vacancies was consistent with previous years.
…According to the 2017-18 State of the Teaching Profession in North Carolina report, North Carolina has a statewide teacher vacancy rate of around 1.5 percent. In 2018, North Carolina public schools employed a total of nearly 95,000 full-time teachers and had 1,555 teacher position vacancies on the 40th instructional day. (A few districts submitted data with inconsistencies, so they were omitted.) If distributed evenly across the over 2,600 public schools in the state, that’s an average of 0.6 vacant instructional positions per school.
Stoops writes teacher vacancies do, however, affect some schools and subjects more than others. According to Stoops:
In 2018, regular and special education elementary school positions had the highest number of vacancies. Middle and high school social studies positions had the fewest. In terms of district rates, Anson, Northampton, Warren, Mitchell, Elizabeth City-Pasquotank, and Edenton-Chowan had the highest vacancy rates. Ashe, Clay, Graham, Macon, Newton-Conover City, Pamlico, Perquimans, Swain, and Washington reported they had no vacancies on the 40th instructional day of the 2018 school year.
Dr. Stoops concludes that, when taking teacher vacancies in their full context, there is much less cause for concern.
Of course, one way to ensure funding for new teachers and administrators is available is for North Carolina to pass its overdue budget.