The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Staff Shortages:
The Deepening Crisis in Schools

Sep 18, 2023

As another school year is underway, thousands of students across the U.S. are finding themselves in a situation that is worse than it was the previous year. In Lancaster, Texas, for example, fifty ninth-graders have been cramming up in a cafeteria for a biology class, because there is only one teacher available to teach it.

Hundreds of other students at the same school don’t even have a teacher—67 classes are being taught “virtually,” where students watch a teacher on a big screen—while an adult supervisor in the room is supposed to keep the students “engaged.”

This school in Texas is one example that one media outlet, CNN, reported on, but it’s certainly not unique. The Learning Policy Institute found that one out of ten teacher positions in the U.S. is either vacant or filled by a teacher not certified to teach the subject. So, across the whole country, classes are doubling up in school cafeterias and gyms—to get instruction on a screen, from a teacher who is often hundreds of miles away, working for a contractor company.

It’s a mockery of education.

Surveys show that, since the end of the school shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of teachers quitting their jobs has been increasing. The reasons teachers give mostly revolve around working conditions: large classes, extra workload, and the stress and burnout that come with them.

And it’s not just teachers. Across the U.S., there is also a shortage of school nurses, instructional aides, cafeteria workers, maintenance techs and bus drivers—practically all areas of work that a school needs.

Just in the first week of September, school bus drivers went on strike in three school districts in Connecticut and Ohio. School bus drivers in New York City, the largest school district in the country, are also threatening to strike. In all these school districts, the bus drivers are facing the same problems: low pay, lack of benefits, and long work days.

Short-staffing leads to the doubling up of bus routes, which in turn results in delays, cancelled classes, students not getting home until late at night—and to ten or twelve-hour days for drivers.

Behind this crisis in public schools are decades of cutbacks and neglect by the politicians and officials who run the public school system.

But not every school in the U.S. has staff shortages. There are also many schools in this country, including public schools, which have enough workers. They have small class sizes. Many of the teachers at these schools stay for many years, building relationships with students and their parents. And when a teacher leaves, these schools never have difficulty finding another qualified teacher to fill the position, because teachers know these are good schools to work at. The same is true for other school workers.

These good public schools are in wealthy neighborhoods. When these schools face cutbacks, parents pitch in financially, making sure the schools are still adequately staffed and the buildings well-maintained. But in working class areas where parents don’t have such means, schools are overcrowded and buildings fall apart.

Those who call the shots in capitalist society, big capitalists, do not want to put society’s resources in the service of the working class. They are not interested in providing much of an education to the children of workers. So, they don’t have answers for the deep problems in working-class schools, which their own neglect has created. They have only excuses, such as blaming the problems on the Covid-19 pandemic, or on workers who, supposedly, “don’t want to work.”

That’s why the crisis in education never gets solved for the working class—nor do any of the other crises workers face. In fact, these crises will continue to get worse, until the working class takes control of the society in its own hands.