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Kentucky Education Leader Says Shortage of School Staff No Surprise after Long-Term Issues

Jess Clark/WFPL

School districts across Kentucky are in high gear as they prepare for a return to in-person classes.

But on top of recovering from the COVID-19 upheaval of changing schedules and virtual instruction, there’s another wrinkle in the preparation.

A state education leader said there’s an unusually large number of vacant positions.  

The Kentucky Education Association represents 44,000 teachers and other school employees, including cafeteria workers and custodians. 

“I’m hearing stories from both urban and rural districts about the high vacancies that they have for teacher positions, for custodians, food service, for bus drivers especially, that’s a high need area,” said KEA President Eddie Campbell.

The current shortage of educators is no surprise, because longstanding issues like pay and politics have impacted educators over the past few years, said Campbell.

He said teachers had double or triple their usual workload during the pandemic, often teaching virtually as well as in-person. “

And I’ve heard stories that just the stress and workload and the lack of supports that have come along with COVID have caused them to rethink what they want to do as for a career," said Campbell. "I know some of our educators have left the profession because of COVID, but I don’t know if it’s a large, large number.” 

He said he can’t really determine whether the stress of the pandemic caused some teachers to leave for other careers. 

When school begins for this academic year, Campbell is urging patience among teachers, students and parents, as everyone adjusts to what is hoped to be a more normal academic year after the trauma of the pandemic. 

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Rhonda Miller began as reporter and host for All Things Considered on WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.