OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) — The issue of staff shortages in schools was a problem long before COVID-19. However, the pandemic only exacerbated the problem, and it is no different in St. Landry Parish. 

St. Landry Parish school board member Anthony Standberry says it is time to fight to put educators back in classrooms and he is ready to take the fight to the state level. “There are so many hurdles we have to cross in order to educate,” Standberry says. 

There’s an essential part of classrooms that is absent, the teachers. Standberry explains, “We need to reach out to legislatures, BESE, and the State Department of Education.” Louisiana needs 2,500 more teachers to close the gap on teacher shortages.

Standberry says he believes the College of Education is not producing the same number of teachers as years past. Standberry continues, “All those people have to be divided among the parishes in the state.” 

A big problem fueling the teacher shortage is salary. Louisiana lags in average teacher pay. “Everybody knows they are underpaid,” adds Standberry. According to the National Education Association, 55% of educators say they are ready to leave the profession earlier than planned. 

Standberry says there is added pressure on teachers right now as they navigate new learning material while also trying to recover time loss due to COVID. “When you deprive students of an education, their lives will not be what they need to be,” explains Stanberry. 

He says the shortage crisis is impacting the entire education system starting with day-to-day instruction and they are having to expand classroom sizes to accommodate the shortage, severely impacting the student-teacher ratio. Standberry says, “I’m a firm believer that an uneducated society is a dangerous society.”