Aldeman: There Is No ‘Big Quit’ in K-12 Education. But Schools Have Specific Labor Challenges That Need Targeted Solutions

The 74 Million

The full numbers aren’t in yet, but 2021 will likely set a modern record for number of Americans who quit their jobs. Economists have dubbed it the Great Resignation, as millions of employees search for higher pay and better working conditions.

Is this Big Quit happening in education? The data suggest the answer is no. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while turnover rates are setting new highs in the private sector, they look pretty normal in public education.

That doesn’t mean there are no labor challenges in K-12. It’s just that those issues are smaller in magnitude than what the private sector faces, and they are much more about specific schools and particular roles within schools. Districts should respond accordingly with solutions tailored to the actual challenges schools face.

K-12 districts are reporting a higher number of vacancies compared with historical norms. In a typical year, a school district with 1,000 employees might have about 10 to 15 job openings in January. But this year, the number is on track to be twice as high. Still, a high vacancy rate does not necessarily mean people are quitting at higher rates. Instead, the elevated job openings are caused by a mix of factors, including a desire to staff back up after employment reductions last year, an influx of state and federal money allowing districts to spend freely and a tight labor market fueled by lingering COVID fears and stiff competition from other industries.