As Maryland Starts Education Reform, Staffing Challenges Threaten Successful Implementation

Maryland is entering an era of historical reforms to its public education system under the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Blueprint’s successful implementation, however, is being compromised by an ongoing school staff shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and classroom burnout.

Baltimore Fishbowl‘s Laura Stewart recently reported on the nexus of Blueprint reform and Maryland’s teaching crisis. She described the looming crisis and forthcoming Blueprint implementation as “facing a threat from the labor pressures in education.”

The combination of pre-pandemic teaching shortages, ongoing challenges of hybrid COVID learning, and the increased demands inside and outside of the classroom has resulted in a large number of Maryland’s educators retiring early or seeking employment in other fields.

In Maryland, a majority of educators report that they are more likely to retire early or leave the profession due to staff shortages, large classes, and high stress levels, according to a survey by the Maryland State Education Association.

In the poll, which surveyed 4,746 public school employees between Jan. 14-24, 96% of educators reported that staff shortages are a serious or very serious concern.

Burnout and high workloads are the top issues facing Maryland educators, according to the survey. Due to pandemic challenges, 60% of educators said they are more likely to leave the profession or retire earlier than planned.

Maryland isn’t alone. According to Stewart, public education is at a critical point across the country:

Nationally, employment in local government education is down by 359,000 since February 2020, per the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In December alone, about 143,000 workers in the education sector quit their jobs, the Labor Department reported.

Maryland already faced a critical staffing shorting in public schools across the state before the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy makers attempted to address some of the pre-pandemic staffing concerns via the work of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (better known as the Kirwan Commission), chaired by William E. “Brit” Kirwan.

The recommendations coming from the Kirwan Commission served as the foundation for the Blueprint for Maryland’s future. Those included policy suggestions to address staffing challenges, including higher salaries and benefits for teachers. Stewart noted, however, that changes these won’t come fast enough to curb the staffing crisis:

But the higher salaries, additional health workers and commitment to equity outlined in the Blueprint won’t come fast enough for many educators experiencing the brunt of the pandemic.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage on these challenges and others as the Blueprint Accountability and Implementation Board begins its work (after facing several timing and staffing challenges itself) and local jurisdictions start to grapple with Blueprint implementation.

Read the full Baltimore Fishbowl article.