Biden administration partnering with job search companies to help fill teacher shortages

 The Biden administration will partner with several major job search companies to try to address teacher shortages that have plagued many of the country's school districts – moves that aim to boost a profession increasingly under attack.

According to a White House memo provided exclusively to USA TODAY, the companies will set up ways school districts can recruit and hire prospective teachers and for teachers looking for jobs to find openings.

ZipRecruiter is launching a new online job portal specifically for K-12 schools. Indeed will set up virtual hiring fairs for educators and other staff across the country. And Handshake, which helps college students find employment, is creating new ways of sharing job openings with undergraduate students in education, including a virtual event this October for college students interested in the field.

"The shortage of talent in education is a national crisis that could hinder the next generation of Americans, our students," said Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, adding that it will require an "all-hands-on-deck" effort. "Our nation’s children depend on us and we must all rise to the occasion."

First lady Jill Biden, a longtime community college professor, will host a White House discussion Wednesday on the teacher shortage to formally announce the partnerships. She will be joined by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, other administration officials, governors, and executives from Recruiter, Handshake, and Indeed.

First lady Jill Biden waves as President Joe Biden looks at grandson Beau Biden as they prepare to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 10, 2022. The first lady and Biden administration officials will announce partnerships with job search companies Wednesday in a push to address a nationwide teacher shortage crisis.

In other efforts to boost teacher recruitment, Biden's Education and Labor departments will encourage state and local officials in a letter Wednesday to use funds provided in the American Rescue Plan, which congressional Democrats passed in 2021, to increase teacher pay. Schools received $130 billion from the rescue law, while local and state governments received an additional 350 billion in direct funding.

The Biden administration said it is committing more than $100 million in the Labor Department's next round of apprenticeship grants to the education sector. 

The White House is also redoubling efforts to bolster the pipeline into teaching through partnerships between states and the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the country's two largest teachers' unions. Much of the emphasis is on expanding apprenticeships, teaching residencies, and other non-traditional pathways into the profession – programs that are popular among prospective educators of color.

Randi Weingarten, president of ATF, pointed to Houston, Nashua, N.H., and New Mexico as places that have raised teacher pay and expanded residencies to fill teacher vacancies. 

"These strategies need to be the rule, not the exception," she said, arguing that educators "simply need the tools, trust, conditions, and compensation to do their jobs and stay in their jobs.”

It's impossible to quantify teacher vacancies in real-time; comprehensive, reliable data doesn't exist. Some of the openings are new positions that were created with the help of COVID relief dollars – schools have significantly grown their ranks of social workers, counselors, and nurses, for example. 

The Biden administration is partnering with several major job search companies to try to address teacher shortages that have plagued many of the country's school districts.

However, a recent USA TODAY analysis of existing research suggests many of the vacancies are related to shortages that predated the coronavirus pandemic and concentrated in schools serving large percentages of nonwhite students or children living in poverty. Meanwhile, a recent study found persistent and widespread shortages of non-teaching personnel, from bus drivers to custodians.

Cardona said the teacher shortage is a symptom of a "teacher respect issue" in an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. He said new college graduates earn 33% more than the average teacher and that teachers have seen just a $29 salary increase over the past 25 years when adjusted for inflation.

"That's unacceptable," Cardona said, describing teachers forced to work as ride-share drivers on weekends. "We have to lift the profession."

Experts have told USA TODAY much of the focus should be on removing barriers that often prevent people of color and low-income people from entering the profession. One significant hurdle is the cost of enrolling full-time in a traditional teacher preparation program. Nontraditional pathways such as residencies sometimes allow participants to earn money while they're preparing for their teaching careers.

But the same experts said just as much emphasis should be on retaining the teachers who remain in the classroom. The rate of educators who say the stress of their job is worth it has dropped steadily since the onset of the pandemic. 

President Joe Biden speaks at the Arnaud C. Marts Center on the campus of Wilkes University, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS329

Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or Follow her on Twitter at @aliaemily. Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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