Chronic teacher absenteeism could cost US schools $4 billion

Las Vegas is located in one of the nation’s largest school districts with a small teacher pool – more than 17,000 positions. On an average day last year, nearly a quarter of them didn’t go to class.

Since returning to virtual education during the pandemic, teacher attendance in Clark County and statewide has dropped to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to data from the Nevada Department of Education. It’s a problem that’s getting worse across the country, from East Coast school districts in New York and Connecticut to Chicago. According to the staffing company, on any given day, up to 10% of teachers do not show up to class Kelly Services Inc., citing data from 40 states. This is up from 6% during the Covid pandemic.

Now, as schools still struggle to make up for the education lost during the shutdown, officials are facing a growing economic burden that will only grow further as budgets fall. federal stimulus aid end in September. If even 8% of the nation’s 3.2 million full-time public schools teacher According to Bloomberg estimates, that equates to a daily cost of about $25.6 million for school districts, or $4.4 billion per school year.

“We hear financial leaders say they are worried about it,” said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University. extra”. “If students who have missed a year of school are now missing 10% due to chronic absences and another 10% due to chronic teacher absences, they will never get back on track.”

School leaders and teachers say this worrying trend is a sign of the growth of the profession. challenge: difficult work environment with more student behavior problems, fewer resources, and low wages eaten away by inflation. And the pipe is less with fewer people obtaining educational qualifications.

Before the pandemic, teachers had an overall average attendance rate of 95%, and the typical educator missed about nine days of school out of 187 in the school year, according to one report. survey of the 30 largest districts conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality. The rate of chronic teacher absenteeism is decreasing and the number of teachers with “excellent” attendance, absent three days or less, is increasing. The panel that released its results in 2020 defined chronic absence as absence of 18 days or more.

But among a small group, absenteeism is rampant: 1 in 10 teachers miss an average of 22 workdays, accounting for a quarter of all absences nationwide. And since then it has gotten worse.

According to the Department of Education survey results, more recent federal data shows that most schools are seeing higher rates of teacher absenteeism than before the pandemic, with nearly three-quarters of schools public reported an increase in the 2021-22 school year. release in 2022.

Data is sparse

Nevada is one of the few states that even tracks teacher attendance. Among the 10 largest states, at least six do not collect data on teacher attendance. Among states that do so, data shows teachers call in more often.

According to a Clark County School District spokesperson, in the wake of the pandemic, there has been a global shift in attitudes about the use of sick time. The district’s 76% average daily teacher attendance for the 2022-23 school year also includes unfilled positions, the spokesperson said in an email response to questions. The district has approximately 92% of all positions licensed for the 2024-25 school year.

Study has shown that student performance declines when teachers are absent for 10 days or more. In Connecticut, classroom teachers missed an average of 13 days of school during the 2021-22 school year. More than 20 counties reported averages of 15 days or more, according to state data. The stakes are high: more than half of Connecticut students are below grade level ability math, and the achievement gap between poor and rich students is widening.

Matthew Cerrone, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Education, said the increase in absences could be related to many complex factors and that department officials are investigating the matter, which is related to hiring practices. underutilization and lack of teachers.

In New York City, the country’s largest school district, about one in five public school teachers miss 11 or more days in the 2022-23 school year, up from 13% four years ago. About 43% of Chicago teachers had 10 or more absences in 2023, the highest rate since at least 2018. The trend was similar statewide, according to data from the Illinois State Board of Education.

Last year, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and lawmakers spent $45 million on a project allowance program for schools facing the most severe teacher shortages. According to Jackie Matthews, a spokeswoman for the state board of education, recipients have used the funds to invest in retention incentives such as debt forgiveness, as well as programs that improve school culture and support personnel.

A district about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Chicago received a $400,000 grant as part of the program. Galesburg CUSD #205 and its 3,900 students have approximately 20 long-term, unlicensed substitutes in the classroom.

According to Mindi Ritchie, assistant director of human resources and student support, state funds have helped. They sponsor an employee wellness day and provide financial support for programs such as loan repayment and long-term sub-certifications.

‘Significant increase’

California does not track teacher attendance at the state level, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, did not provide data records in response to a Bloomberg News public information request. But teachers in the district have noticed a change.

“Since the pandemic, the increase in student absenteeism and teacher absenteeism has been truly staggering,” said Noriko Nakada, a veteran high school teacher in LAUSD. She said staffing shortages at her school have forced others to fill vacant math teacher positions for most of this year. “That makes all teachers lazy and just makes all teachers more susceptible to getting sick or burned out.”

There is no doubt that teachers are exposed to many types of germs in the classroom, and then some study have shown that teachers actually have comparable, if not fewer, absences than similarly educated workers when demographics are controlled for.

Short starting salaryburdened students loan amount, languor and a junior teacher pipeline Nicola Soares, president of education at Kelly Services, a staffing company, said absenteeism has worsened, especially long-term cases, as stress weighs on staff, causing some people to leave and forcing those who stayed to take on more work.

A nationwide shortage of substitute teachers makes it more difficult to get insurance. When there are no sign-ups, teachers often drop free classes, or in extreme cases, students was rounded up in the gym or coffee shop, or school close total.

Teachers also said work makes them mentally more stressed. Many people are grappling with an increase in outbursts of behavior from students returning from the pandemic, and schools have become increasingly popular battlegrounds for political culture wars, from book bans to civil rights. Transgender. In April, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a law allowing teachers to carry guns in schools a year after a gunman opened fire and killed three students and three staff members at a private school in Nashville.

“The daily activities are tiring,” said Danette Stokes, a teacher and president of the local union, the Unified Education Association of Shelby County in Tennessee. “A lot of teachers don’t get the support they need when it comes to discipline, we have to do what’s best for us.”


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