RACINE — As students across Wisconsin prepare for the first day of school, many districts are facing teacher shortages.
Racine Educators United President Angelina Cruz said this time of year is usually filled with excitement for teachers, and while that's still true, there's also anxiety knowing districts won't be fully staffed.
"Going into this year there's a lot of relief that we can come back to the classroom and welcome our kids with open arms and know it's safer. But also know that we're going to have larger class sizes, teachers aren't necessarily guaranteed their planning time because they'll have to cover on substitute rotations," Cruz said of the mixed emotions.
Right now, Racine Unified has 73 open teacher positions with school starting Thursday. But it's not a problem unique to Racine.
Milwaukee Public Schools is facing more than 250 vacancies, Madison has 141, and the West Allis-West Milwaukee District has 23.
"It impacts the children in that they're not receiving the best quality education that they should be receiving, and it impacts the education workforce in that it's a strain on us," Cruz added.
According to the National Education Association, 55% of educators are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than anticipated.
For Black educators that number goes up to 62%, and for Latino/Hispanic educators it's 59%.
"The teaching force does not match our student population," Cruz said. "That is a focus that Racine Unified has committed to, recruiting and retaining the educators of color that they do have. So it will be interesting to see what their plan related to that is moving forward."
The pandemic exasperated issues in the classroom, but Cruz said many of those problems existed long before the pandemic started.
When asked what needs to be done to keep teachers in the classroom she said there needs to be better teaching and learning conditions, better student-to-teacher rations, and that teachers need to be paid and respected as professionals.