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'Make the job of teaching more doable': Researchers discuss teacher shortages, possible solutions

The Learning Policy Institute found that 90% of demand is caused by teachers leaving the profession.

HOUSTON — Many classrooms won't be adequately staffed when the bell rings on the new school year. Right now, the five largest school districts in the Houston area have more than 2,200 teacher vacancies among them.

RELATED: Here are all the teacher vacancies at Houston-area school districts

“This is a challenge across the country,” Learning Policy Institute Chief of Staff Tara Kini said.

The nonprofit, non-partisan education research organization has tracked teacher shortages for years.

"And, they were an issue long before the pandemic hit and have only gotten worse,” Kini said.

LPI published an extensive report on the “coming crisis” before things got even worse. Here's a look at a line graph showing the estimated supply and demand for teachers. It's going in opposite directions:

Credit: LPI

Research shows declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, which is a major issue. It dropped by about 30% from 2010 to 2018 alone.

"And, at the same time, we see very significant rates of teachers leaving the profession, what we call teacher attrition," Kini said. "And that attrition is what drives about 90% of the demand for new teachers.”

Working conditions, inadequate support and pay are among the reasons teachers said they left for other careers.

"And safety, of course, as you well know in Texas, is a much bigger challenge these days in schools," Kini said. "So the job of teaching is enormous.”

In a separate study that came out in June, the RAND Corporation found that teachers have twice as much stress as other working adults.

One who recently left the profession told KHOU 11 News that she’s never been happier. Another is now inspecting homes in the Hill Country rather than teaching history in Houston.

RELATED: Task force created to find out how to keep teachers in classrooms

"We really need to make the job of teaching more doable," Kini said.

Student loan forgiveness for teachers is among the potential solutions to help curb this crisis.

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