Staffing Challenges Still Plague Most Public K–12 Schools

A report released today by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that the vast majority of public schools in the United States are still facing challenges hiring teachers and staff, though fewer report feeling "understaffed."

According to the results of the staffing survey, part of an experimental report from the NCES' School Pulse Panel, 86% of schools said they're facing challenges hiring teachers in the 2023–2024 school year, and 83% reported challenges hiring "non-teacher positions, such as classroom aides, transportation staff, and mental health professionals."

At the same time, there was some year-over-year improvement in how participants perceived their staffing situation, with only 45% saying they felt understaffed (versus 53% last year).

"Although we see a somewhat smaller share of public schools starting the new academic year feeling understaffed, the data indicate the majority of public schools are experiencing staffing challenges at the same levels they did last school year," said NCES Commissioner Peggy G. Carr, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "Understanding hiring difficulties is part of NCES's mandate to monitor educational recovery in our nation's schools."

The most prevalent trouble spots for understaffing in positions that "needed" to be filled were in the areas of general elementary and special education teachers, cited by 71% and 70% of respondents, respectively.

For non-teaching staff, the biggest problem areas were classroom aides and custodial staff, cited by 75% and 49% of respondents, respectively.

The most "difficult" teaching positions to fill, according to the report, were in the areas of special education, physical science, and foreign languages — "for those schools that had such positions." On the non-teaching side, transportation and custodial staff were cited as the most difficult vacancies to fill.

The biggest barriers to hiring both teaching and non-teaching staff included too few candidates applying (70% of respondents) and lack of qualified applicants (66%).

The National Center for Education Statistics is part of the Institute of Education Sciences within the United States Department of Education. The findings were based on data collected from 1,319 public schools, representing every state and the District of Columbia. Data for the staffing report were collected in August.

Complete results and a sample of the questionnaire used for the 2023–2024 School Pulse Panel staffing survey can be downloaded from the NCES portal here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .