GREENVILLE, Miss. — School districts across the country are struggling to find teachers. It’s forcing districts to get creative, often trying to lure teachers with incentives.
In Mississippi, they're offering up to $6,000 to cover closing costs on a new house.
“We can see the shortage everywhere," said Dr. Debra Dace, the superintendent of the Greenville Public School District. “We’re offering algebra at one of our middle schools that doesn’t have a teacher. The other one does, so they’re Zooming into his class every day.”
Greenville is one of 98 districts in Mississippi alone considered to have a “critical shortage” of teachers. But it's hardly alone.
Every state in America is facing a shortage. Districts in Lansing, San Diego, and Denver have switched to occasional virtual days or tried to provide extra days off so teachers won’t burn out. Cleveland’s public school system is offering mentorship programs for prospective teachers.
In Greenville, Barbara Brady teaches kindergarten. She's been a teacher for 32 years. When she had a house fire in a previous home, she took advantage of Mississippi's home assistance incentives.
So did Amanda Delperdang, who teaches third grade. She grew up a time zone away in Ogden, Utah, and arrived in Greenville through Teach for America.
"I decided to stay," she said, having used the home assistance program. “I want [my students] to know that they can have options – and that they can have options here. They don’t have to leave.”
The state of Mississippi offers numerous incentives to recruit teachers. They’ll cover a thousand dollars in moving expenses. Greenville is so short on math teachers that they get an extra 6,000 dollars. Everyone’s trying.
And still, there are still 98 districts with a critical shortage.
“There has to be more," Delperdang said, "because after those incentives are over, now my pay has gone back to what it was before. I’m here and I care about the kids. I want them to be successful. I don’t want to leave teaching because I’m burned out or because I don’t have the financial means.”
Not that long ago, teachers made salaries comparable to others with similar backgrounds and education. These days they make 21 percent less. Hundreds of thousands have left the profession in the last two years alone, during a pandemic that has left students months behind.
And ultimately, this is about those students, so often unsullied by what’s going on around them.