Heather Long is a member of the Washington Post editorial board. She pinpoints the reasons for the national teacher shortage: low pay, but also pandemic stresses, and the ongoing political attacks on the teaching profession by extremists who want to prevent any teaching about racism or sexuality.

Message: pay teachers as professionals and let them teach as professionals, without censorship or interference by busybodies.

Long writes:

The U.S. economy hit a milestone this year: All 22 million jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic were fully recovered. But that doesn’t mean workers went back to the same jobs. One of the sectors struggling the most to rebound is K-12 public education, which is still down more than 270,000 employees.

There is an educator shortage in the United States, but it is crucial to understand the details. First, this is about more than teachers. That 270,000 figure includes a lot fewer bus drivers, custodians and other support staff. Second, education isn’t simply about getting enough warm bodies into classrooms; it’s about having effective and qualified teachers and staff. The best analysis of the situation this fall, from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University, indicates a teacher shortage of nearly 2 percent, but more than 5 percent of positions are currently held by under-qualified teachers. Third, the shortage isn’t nationwide. It’s much worse in some schools and in some subjects.

In October, nearly half of public schools were still struggling to fill at least one teacher vacancy, according to a recently released Education Department survey. But schools in high-poverty neighborhoods were significantly more likely to have unfilled positions. Similarly, school districts report having an especially hard time finding special education, computer science and foreign language teachers, and bus drivers and custodial staff.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, but many signs indicate it worsened during the pandemic. Teachers experienced extreme levels of burnout from Zoom classes and safety concerns during the early days of the pandemic. Then came the culture wars that put teachers and staff under constant scrutiny over any conversations involving history, racism and sexuality. Throw in the Great Resignation, a tight labor market and rapidly rising pay in other professions, and the net result has been some teachers and staff retiring early. Others have quit and gone to work in different professions. And some recent graduates have decided not to enter education at all.