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Fewer teachers across the country and in Wisconsin

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- A problem faced for years across the country is being brought to light by this pandemic: a declining number of teachers.

"There are a lot of teachers who have just chosen to leave the profession," said David DeGuire, Director of Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Licensing for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

He explained there are 120,000 licensed teachers in Wisconsin and only 60,000 work in public schools.

"This is not just a Wisconsin Issue, this is happening pretty much in every state," said DeGuire.

Over a 9-year period, Wisconsin saw a 29% decrease in new teachers.

Now, with an ongoing pandemic, the number of retiring teachers is going up.

Karla Mechanowicz, Employee Relations Specialist for the Wausau School District said it's, "definitley more than prior years."

27 teachers retired from the Wausau School District in 2020. So far the district has hired 57 new teachers and is still looking to fill 11 more teaching positions.

As the school year begins, schools may begin to experience trouble finding substitute teachers as well.

In the past, retired teachers have made up a large portion of the substitute pool. But now, "we are definitely seeing that our older retiring teachers are very skeptical about going into the schools during this time of pandemic," said Michanowicz.

Meanwhile, in the D.C. Everest School District, HR Director Kim Hall said, "there has been a different gap that we've needed to fill."

The district opened a new school called Everest Virtual Academy. Hall had to bring in a completely new staff, taking some teachers that were already in the district and in some cases bring on new employees.

These are the struggles felt locally but the pandemic brought to light a declining number of working teachers across the state and country.

Because of this growing need, DPI has issued a growing number of "Emergency" or One Year Licenses. That allows staff already working in schools (like nurses and social workers) to step in as teachers.

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Tom Lally

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