Projected challenges often seem far in the distance, hazy visions of bad things to (maybe) come. In education, we’ve been talking about the assault on public education for so long that we’ve grown to accept future hazards as the norm. A darkness is always looming, but it never has really arrived in full force. Winter is coming, yes, but it’s perpetually late fall. We always just scrape by and make do. However, we’ve turned a corner, and although the following sounds like a tagline from a bad horror movie, perhaps whispered by a wet haired girl in a nightgown – the association feels appropriate.
The bad things are here.
Weakened structures usually break first at the most vulnerable spots; they’re essentially low-hanging fruit. In our field, special education has always been challenging to staff with the outstanding teachers those students so desperately need and deserve. It’s been our most vulnerable internal structure, if you will – held together by just enough talent and will-power. Filling teaching spots in these classrooms has never been easy, but it’s always been doable.
Not anymore, because although the bad things may be here, the teachers are not.
Major districts across this state have multiple classrooms with no teachers and are scrambling just to find warm bodies. Vacancies are the new normal. In some areas we might concede and hire someone less than desirable. In others, even those people aren’t showing up. School districts are in a particularly tough spot having to acknowledge the talent deficit to frustrated parents, while competing for enrollment by offering reassurances. And, in the end, it’s those kids that lose.
It really is that bad. But what would one expect from years of neglect? A state can only be last for so long before people notice. And, believe me, they’ve noticed.
What’s next? I’m not exactly sure, but if my model outlining the most vulnerable areas of our system as being the first to face the music, the crisis in talent for low-income schools will only get worse. The crisis is here. Districts cannot fill classrooms with the teachers students deserve because the well is nearly dry.
Now that’s a real horror movie.