back to school

Parents are Stepping Up as Teacher and Bus Driver Shortages Loom Across Nation

A new and exciting year of school has kicked off for students this month. This time, it’s not on Zoom, but in person. 

While many happy buildings are becoming filled with happy kids, some parents are angrily staring at their watches and phones at bus stops. The bus that was supposed to pick up their child at 7:30am is still nowhere to be seen at 8:05am. 

The supply shortages that the United States has faced all year long have sadly not skipped the education space. Despite a new year of school starting, schools are facing shortages of teachers, bus drivers, substitute teachers, computers, and even ketchup packets.

“There’s a labor and inventory shortage at the same time we’re increasing enrollment and hiring,” said Aaron Bass, chief executive of EastSide Charter School in Wilmington, Delaware.

“We’ve been looking like crazy for everybody you can think of: janitors, cafeteria workers, psychologists, counselors, bus drivers. Even if you have all the money in the world, you can’t get what you need.”

EastSide has creatively opted to offer parents a stipend for getting their kids to and from school. Parents are being offered $700 to drop and pick up their children this school year, according to the Washington Post.

Washoe County School District in Nevada is even offering $2,000 bonuses to new bus drivers.

Across the nation, many parents are now signing up to become bus drivers as administrators say the lack of bus drivers is one of their biggest concerns this fall.

It’s not just a shortage of bus drivers that parents should be concerned about. 

Early teacher retirements are also up in states across the country as many of these men and women have hit a wall during the pandemic.

Speaking to Insider, Dana Lizewski revealed that during the pandemic her decision to leave teaching became cemented. “I’ve always said I’ll just stick it out,” Lizewski said. “But I think this year has really solidified that it’s just not in my personality to deal with those constant changes…”

After five years in a classroom, Lizewski left her job as a preschool teacher in New York in order to prioritize her mental health. 

“It’s been quite difficult to the point where I’ve had severe anxiety and panic attacks and things I had never dealt with in my life before,” she explained.

A recent study by the National Education Association has found that the pandemic has taken a major toll on educators and “a severe teacher shortage looms on the horizon.”

“We face a looming crisis in losing educators at a time when our students need them most,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “This is a serious problem with potential effects for generations.”

Doris Santoro, a professor of education at Bowdoin College in Maine has told NEA, “The conditions teachers have been working under have been rife for burnout and demoralization, so we will see some attrition this year. But what I’m really worried about are those teachers who are going to stick it out and see what the next school year brings, how things are handled by their schools and districts.”

Grateful parents can only hope that it gets better for teachers who do so much for their students all year long. These educators are now back in the classrooms for 10 hours a day, despite Covid-19 concerns. 

Teachers are the backbone of society who often deal with low wages and pay for school supplies right out of their own pockets.

Their importance has always been known, but the last school year has especially shown the nation and millions of parents just how invaluable they really are.

These men and women were forced to quickly navigate through an unprecedented crisis and teach their curriculum through a computer screen. Not to mention come up with ways to still stay personally connected with their students.

Thankfully, overall 76 percent of NEA members reported that they are ready for full-time, in-person instruction, with an additional 22 percent saying they will return if required. 

“Educators are ready for the hope and promise of having all of their students learning in-person this fall,” Pringle noted. They also know “there are going to be opportunities and challenges we still must face.”

If you’re a parent wondering how you can help struggling teachers this year, consider a donation to a non-profit charity that can assist teachers in various ways.

For example, TV personality Stephan Colbert is a fan of Donors Choose, an online charity that allows individuals to give directly to teachers and students. You can browse classroom causes by location, materials requested, or greatest need. 

Another charity to consider is Teach for America, who aims to address the achievement gap in high-needs schools by enlisting recent college graduates. Teach for America corps members complete their program requirements all while helping a school in need.

If you can’t afford to donate, then consider Office Depot when you’re doing shopping for office supplies. The chain supports a variety of programs that help teachers and students. The company is a founding member of the Business Education Network, which seeks to advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. education system; the National Backpack Program, which gives new schoolbags to children in need; and the Kids in Need Teacher Grants, which awards educators $100 to $500 to finance creative classroom projects. 

Staples, Barnes & Noble, and OfficeMax additionally have similar offerings.