Fact check: Has pandemic made NC’s teacher shortage worse?

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina is dealing with a shortage of teachers. But has the pandemic made it worse?

CBS17.com is checking the facts behind Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt’s claim that it has not.

THE CLAIM: “We do not have any data right now that tells us we have any more of a teacher shortage than we did prior to the pandemic,” Truitt said.

THE FACTS: We asked the Department of Public Instruction for the numbers behind that claim, and spokeswoman Blair Rhoades said in a statement that the “current data shows us there doesn’t appear to be abnormally high vacancies across the state.”

DPI won’t have numbers for the 2020-21 school year until October but the agency’s most recent report to the General Assembly shows a vacancy rate of 1.7 percent with 1,646 openings out of a total of about 96,230 certified positions.

She says that rate usually falls between 1 percent and 1.5 percent by late September of each year.

“The number of teaching vacancies statewide has always been remarkably stable,” Rhoades said.

She also says attrition averages between 7,000 and 8,000 each year, adding that “this too is remarkably stable,” and says the current vacancies “aren’t anything out of the norm or unusual when compared to the entire population of individuals needed to educate (North Carolina) public schools.”

But Kristin Beller, president of the Wake NCAE — the county’s branch of the North Carolina Association of Educators — says the pandemic made the vacancies that existed beforehand even tougher to deal with.

“The pandemic is a challenge in itself,” Beller said. “But when you are working in a building, where there’s a teacher shortage, it is going to be significantly harder.”

Rhoades also says some districts and schools might face worse shortages than others, and Truitt referred to that when she said “anything you hear right now is anecdotal.”

NCAE spokesman Gerrick Brenner pointed to job postings showing Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools with nearly three times as many vacancies as it did in 2019, and a news report in which Robeson County Assistant Superintendent Robert Locklear saying the shortage is “real, large and growing.”

“I think when you get into, you know, who has it worse, is it OK for any of our counties to be lacking qualified educators in classrooms?” Beller asked. “Does it matter if one county, you know, has X number of positions vacant and another one has Y?”


CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.


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