COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – School districts throughout the country are seeing an unprecedented shortage of teachers, and that shortage is being felt here in Ohio.

A statewide teacher’s organization said it has a list of ways to not only recruit more educators but also retain them.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) represents more than 120,000 educators in the state and the organization’s president said if something isn’t done to address the dwindling number of teachers, the result could be widespread.

“And as more people do hit retirement age, and there’s a continuing demand to meet the needs of all of our students, we could be facing a crisis situation,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro

DiMauro said the growing need for educators here in the state of Ohio is reaching catastrophic levels. 

“If we take a step back, and we see, even coming out of some of the worst of the pandemic, and schools being back to in-person instruction, looking at the data, there are 17,000 fewer people employed in public education in the state of Ohio now, going into the beginning of this school year, than there were three years ago, going into the school year before the pandemic started,” he said.

Having served as an educator for more than 30 years, DiMauro said he has seen a drastic change in his chosen profession, saying fewer students are choosing education as a career, adding some who do start in the field, at some point, move to something else.

With the help of OEA members, the organization drafted a list of what they consider solutions to the state’s growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis. At the top of that list: Teacher’s salary.

OEA is recommending that the state’s minimum teacher’s salary be increased to $40,000. According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers earn 23.5% less than comparable college graduates.

Some of the OEA’s other recommendations include:

  • Remove financial barriers for completion of pre-service requirements for teacher licensure.
  • Require the state to complete a comprehensive assessment of the alignment of Ohio’s teacher preparation programs with the realities of Pre-K-12 schools.
  • Seek feedback from educators on their working conditions.
  • Create and maintain an accessible statewide database of education job openings

DiMauro said that right now, the focus should be on recruitment, reversing the trend of fewer people choosing education as a career. He said long-term retention is the goal, and that the organization’s suggestions address both of these needs.

“We’re at a crossroads,” he said. “We can either address these problems in a very systematic way to make sure that we’re providing compensation, that we’re providing support, that we’re providing resources and respect for educators. We can look at Band-Aid solutions that basically water down expectations and lower quality in a way that’s going to cause harm to Ohio students and to our communities.”

DiMauro said it’s important to get more people into the profession, but also to have an educator workforce that looks like the population of students, which means more teachers of color, more male teachers. DiMauro said breaking down barriers and making sure education is a sustainable career is crucial.