For years, Vermont’s workforce shortage has splintered the state’s education system, as the number of teachers and administrators in rural areas has diminished rapidly.  

In the wake of the pandemic, there is an urgency in Montpelier to help Vermont’s future. 

“It’s bigger than this legislature,” said Democratic Rep. Erin Brady. 

Jay Nichols, the executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Assocation, says the shortage of educators is unprecedented. 

“Our turnover rate for the last school year was 31%,” Nichols said. “That’s 11% higher than any other year we’ve got data on. We’re seeing the pipeline shrink drastically.” 

For decades Vermont has had a top-ranking education system, but the state has started to see those within the system flee to neighboring states for more favorable pension programs and higher minimum pay. Both are things that the Vermont Superintendent’s Association says need to be addressed in the new biennium. 

“How do we support and uplift the talent in our systems and in our communities to ascend to those roles,” said Chelsea Myers with the Superintendent’s Association. 

Vermont’s average pay for all educators is $66,000, but in many districts that number can get as low as $35,000. That drop-off has partially led to significant turnover in both the state’s pool of principals and superintendents.  

“National pressures politically as well as just the increased responsibility of educators in the system to provide wraparound services that they weren’t necessarily asked to do in years prior,” Myers said. 

Administrators have provided those taxing wraparound services from lunchrooms to gymnasiums, and the Donald Tinney, the president of Vermont’s teachers’ union says improving that infrastructure could make a difference. 

“We know that our employees’ working conditions are the students learning conditions,” Tinney said. 

Brady – an educator in Vermont for over 15 years – says the problem is a complex one that parallels the state’s housing shortage. She adds the legislature may only be able to tinker at the crisis’s edges. 

“Reduce some of the challenges to licensure, to fees, maybe we can make the process a little bit easier,” Brady said. 

While no legislation has been presented yet, the chair of the House’s education committee, Democrat Rep. Peter Conlon, sees it the same. 

“I think about some of the same incentive programs we are using in our healthcare industry, loan forgiveness,” Conlon said.