Top Issues of 2023 Session: School Personnel Shortages

With the 2023 Legislative Session rapidly approaching, MACo is profiling some major issues that stand to gather attention in the General Assembly’s work. Here, we preview school personnel shortages and potential legislation related to the problem.

Several years into the COVID-19 pandemic, Maryland’s schools are still facing deep shortages of staff in all fields. The problem transcends school district, with all experiencing heightened levels of sustained position openings in an increasingly complex work force for hiring and retention.

Those challenges are likely to remain for the foreseeable future for hiring and retention for just about every school staff position, and the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) took note in their 2022 issue papers.

According to DLS, there are nearly 2,000 open teaching positions as of May 2022 statewide, accounting for 3.2 percent of all teacher positions in Maryland:

In Maryland, an insufficient supply of new teachers and a high number of teachers exiting the profession has resulted in a significant number of teacher vacancies. Over the past 10 years, Maryland experienced a 33% decrease in total enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Due to this decrease, the supply of teachers is not keeping pace with local school system demand, a trend seen across the United States. Since the 2017-2018 school year, approximately 9% of Maryland teachers have not returned to teach in Maryland in the following year, excluding teachers who moved between local school systems or schools. This pattern continued in the 2021-2022 school year, with 5,516 Maryland teachers (8.8%) exiting teaching at the end of the school year. Of that amount, 2,163 (39%) voluntarily resigned; 1,406 (26%) left for education-related employment; 1,132 (21%) retired; and 815 (14%) exited for other reasons or were terminated.

DLS also found that other school personnel positions are also going unfilled around the state — including school bus drivers, custodial and cafeteria staff, and classroom support staff:

Local school systems also report difficulty hiring noninstructional staff for the 2022-2023 school year. Job openings posted on local school system websites advertise positions for classroom and library aides, bus drivers and other transportation personnel, administrative staff, and other support staff. These websites also advertise job fairs, wage increases, and hiring bonuses for noninstructional staff.

Potential legislative actions the General Assembly might take

DLS acknowledged that while local governments are starting to implement aspects the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Blueprint) that may help with hiring and recruitment, but that additional state actions may be necessary.

DLS turned to examples in other states for potential action the General Assemble could consider in the 2023 legislative session. DLS stated:

Other states experiencing teacher shortages have adopted a variety of strategies to attract and retain qualified personnel. Some programs provide financial incentives for teacher preparation in high-need disciplines; others aim to distribute teachers more equitably.

Some of these programs that DLS chose to highlight include:

  • Arizona: full tuition scholarships for students who enroll in a state teacher education program and commit to working in Arizona schools;
  • Connecticut: mortgage assistance for teachers to enable them to afford houses in the communities where they work;
  • New Mexico: federal loan repayment for teachers certified in high-need disciplines such as special and bilingual education that are willing to work at low-performing schools; and
  • Other states: considering entry into a new Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact, a legally binding agreement between member states to ensure that eligible licenses will be equivalent across states and disciplines. For the compact to become effective, two or more states must enact legislation containing identical compact language.

Impact on counties

Notably the first three examples would require state and sometimes potentially large local financial commitments should the General Assembly choose to purse such measures. Additionally, as DLS noted in its Issue Papers, any such measures would come in addition to counties already greatly ramping up professional development for school staff as required by the Blueprint.

Chapters 36 and 55 of 2021, legislation enacted to implement the Blueprint, included provisions that aim to address the shortage of teachers, including a mandated minimum base salary of $60,000 by July 1, 2026, salary increases for National Board Certification teachers, and programs for teacher development and career ladders. Additionally, federal funds in the Maryland Leads program (made available through the American Rescue Plan Act) and loan assistance through the Maryland Higher Education Commission provide local school systems and prospective teachers with other incentives.

While these considerations are difficult to tackle, MACo stands ready to work with partner organizations, the State, and the General Assembly to ensure Maryland’s children have access to qualified, well-staffed schools.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street to see how this issue and othes are taken up during the 2023 legislative session.

Read the full DLS issue papers (analysis of school staffing shortages starts on page 59).