Schools in the U.S. are struggling with state budget cuts and teacher shortages.
At least 87,091 teachers nationwide are not fully certified for their positions, and there are 6,424 unfilled teacher positions across eight states. According to the Learning Policy Institute, school districts often compensate for a lack of educators by canceling courses, expanding class sizes, or placing substitute teachers in roles temporarily. But increasingly, uncertified or under-certified teachers are being used to fill the vacancies and alleviate the teacher shortage.
Districts compensate for the lack of funds with everything from reduced school hours to under-prepared instructors.
After state budget cuts slashed nearly 30 percent of general funding for education, schools in 90 Oklahoma districts are now only in session four days a week, as outlined in a report by The Economist. More districts are considering similar shortened schedules.
According to The Economist, the impacts of the reduced hours on learning aren't clear yet. An informal poll showed students were largely in favor in the move, and some schools say shortened weeks encourage children to take on part-time jobs in their spare time.
At least half of all students in Texas are in districts where teachers are exempt from certification, according to the Texas Education Agency.
A state law passed in 2015 allows qualifying school districts to be designated 'Innovation Districts,' which gives them the ability to hire uncertified or under-certified teachers when, for example, school start dates are nearing and schools are understaffed. Previously, uncertified educators had to be approved individually and could teach with a permit or waiver.
The Texas Association of School Boards claims to take advantage of 'Innovation Districts' by hiring industry experts. For example, an engineer not certified to teach would still be allowed to instruct Tech-Ed courses.
But exemption standards in Texas are some of the broadest in the U.S., and districts aren't required to limit uncertified hires to industry specialists.
Per TEC 12A.004 (b)(2), the TEA has notified #txlege that more than 50% of Texas public school students are in districts that have exempted themselves from the Teacher Certification requirement as outlined in TEC 21.003 as part of their local district of innovation plan. #txed— TX Education Agency (@teainfo) January 17, 2018
A teacher shortage nationwide has pulled Alaska's educators from the state. This leaves Alaska school districts desperate for teachers just weeks before the school year starts.
According to Alaska Teacher Placement, recent data shows 155 teaching positions and 90 special education positions vacant statewide. Alaska school districts hire about 800 teachers from out of state and 200 from Alaska each year.
But it may not be enough. Alaska Teacher Placement says fewer people are starting careers in education, and about 50 percent of people who begin jobs in education abandon their careers as teachers within three to five years.
Illinois schools aren't just short on educators, they're also struggling to find substitutes.
The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools found in a survey that 53 percent of schools in the state have difficulty finding substitute teachers.
WICS reports that administrators have begun using social media to advertise a need for substitutes. Some have even had workshops to recruit residents as substitute teachers.
According to the Illinois Association of Regional School Districts, 78 percent of schools are feeling the effects of a teacher shortage in the state. WICS reports that there are simply not as many applicants wanting to fill educator positions.