by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Former Southern Pines town manager Kyle Sonnenberg is declaring that the Moore County Schools is in the midst of a teacher crisis. He writes,
At the recent start of the new school year, I heard that Moore County Schools had a total of 16 teacher positions that were vacant. This number is equivalent to having an entire elementary school without permanent teachers.
Mr. Sonnenberg continues his article by citing various rankings and statistics, including a Wallethub ranking, statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, and enrollment in teacher education programs at Fayetteville State University. All three are taken out of context. Wallethub rankings have no basis in research. While North Carolina did not fare well in the teacher ranking mentioned by the author, in an earlier ranking, the website said that North Carolina had the 13th best school system in the nation. It is hard to reconcile the two.
Mr. Sonnenberg also fails to mention that North Carolina’s teacher attrition rate was 9.04 percent in 2015-16, which is lower than the national average for public school teachers (and for many private industries). While Moore County’s rate was slightly higher than the state average (10.48 percent), it’s not at a “crisis” level. Finally, teacher education enrollment is down nationwide, so North Carolina’s teacher education programs are part of a national trend that likely has more to do with the occupational preferences of millennials than the political machinations of Republicans.
But let’s get to his core claim – that 16 vacant positions constitute a “crisis.” According to state data, Moore County Schools employed 827 teachers last year. Most businesses would be thrilled with a 2 percent vacancy rate. Moreover, it is consistent with historical trends. The N.C. Department of Public Instruction last published a teacher vacancy report in 2012. In that year, Moore County Schools had 15 vacancies, identical to the year prior. So, vacancy totals in the teens appear to have been pretty common for the district.
The district has 23 schools, so 16 vacancies spread across the entire district means that Moore County averages less than one vacancy per school. That is a rather managable “crisis.”