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NC education sector has not rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic

Empty classroom with no students
iStockphoto
Empty classroom with no students

Most economic sectors have rebounded since the pandemic, but not education. Employment in North Carolina’s schools was already trending downward before the pandemic, but COVID-19 accelerated this trend, leading to a steep decline in the education workforce.

Since 2019, the number of school teachers in North Carolina’s public, private and charter schools decreased by more than 9,000, well below predictions from the North Carolina Dept of Commerce.

The culprit, experienced teachers are retiring early and fewer people are entering the profession. A quarter of school workers are above age 55, higher than the workforce as a whole, meaning more retirements are expected over the next few years. The number of bachelor’s degrees in education conferred by North Carolina colleges has decreased 34 percent since 2010.

According to a February report by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the attrition rate for public schools in southeast North Carolina is 9.2%, above the 8.2% statewide rate.

School districts with the highest attrition rates – or percentage of teachers leaving – are Northampton County (26%), Polk County (21%), Washington County (17%), Warren County (16%) and Caswell County (14%) schools.

Schools with the lowest attrition rates include Edenton-Chowan (3%), Elkin City (2%), and Clay County (4%) schools.

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée and two cats.