169 teachers have left the Philadelphia School District since December
From the beginning of December through the middle of February, the district has seen a “dramatic increase in teacher resignations compared to previous years,” a spokesperson for the district told FOX Business.
In that time frame the district lost 169 teachers. That’s a 200% increase from the same period a year ago, when only 57 teachers turned in their resignations, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
A general view of the School District of Philadelphia offices on Dec. 31, 2015 in Philadelphia City. (Paul Marotta/Getty Images / Getty Images)
Aside from the recent slew of resignations, the district already has 178 teachers on leave and sabbatical, which is also an increase from previous years, the spokesperson said.
For years, some states have been issuing fewer teaching licenses, and many districts have had trouble filling vacancies, particularly in poorer areas. However, shortages are being felt much more widely due to absences during a pandemic that is testing educators like no other stretch of their careers, raising fears of many more leaving the profession.
And with the “job market shifting, filling vacancies in the middle of the year with an external applicant is challenging,” the spokesperson added.
Currently, the district has a substitute fill rate of 42%, which refers to the number of openings that have been filled by substitute teachers. This percentage, though, is a sharp decrease from previous years, according to the district.
“The larger number of vacancies, coupled with increased absenteeism and an increased need for staff to take leaves, is further exacerbating the gaps in coverage that we see with school-based staff,” the spokesperson continued.
In order to try and “expand the teacher pipeline,” the district has invested $2.5 million over the next two years to help paraprofessionals to become teachers or other professionals. The district says its also trying to advocate for changes in laws that would “ease the burden of becoming certified in Pennsylvania.”
In the meantime, the district is developing numerous strategies to quickly add staff, including adding competitive salaries and retention bonuses, improving the onboarding process and even adding more staff to help with recruitment.