Raise the Bar: Eliminate the Educator Shortage

Raise the Bar: Eliminate the Educator Shortage

Goal: Eliminate the educator shortage for every school by ensuring that schools are appropriately staffed, paying educators competitively, and strengthening pathways into the profession.

The Problem:

Raise the Bar One-Pagers


Every student should have access to outstanding, well-prepared, well-supported educators who reflect the diversity of the students they serve. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, from February to May 2020, the economy lost an estimated 730,000 local public education jobs—9 percent of all those jobs.

There is good news, though: As a result of the historic investments in the American Rescue Plan, states and school districts have made significant progress in eliminating educator shortages and advancing strategies that will strengthen and diversify our educator pipeline. As a result of these efforts, as of October 2023, there were only 0.17 percent fewer employees in local public education than in October 2019, the last pre-pandemic beginning of a school year.

But there is still work to do. Remaining shortages vary significantly from state to state, district to district and school to school. Additionally, before the pandemic, schools were already experiencing shortages, with disproportionate impacts on students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.

Our schools still have a way to go before they are fully staffed with educators who can meet the needs and reflect the diversity of our nation's students.

The map below reflects the progress of each state in returning to pre-pandemic staffing levels in local public education employment. A positive number on the map below indicates that local education employment exceeds its pre-pandemic level in that state, while a negative number reflects how depleted local education employment is relative to the pre-pandemic period. As a 12-month moving average is used for state data, these estimates lag national employment estimates. Please note that this data reflects all local public education positions filled, including teacher, school leaders, and other school- and district-level staff. The data does not indicate whether teaching positions are filled with educators with emergency, provisional, or full-certification for the area they are assigned to teach.

Progress Towards Returning to Pre-Pandemic Staffing Levels
(download data as a spreadsheet)


For additional information about this map, and other data visualizations on this page, please see the Department’s Raise the Bar Policy Brief.

Our Strategies

The Department is committed to working with state and local leaders to elevate the teaching profession by investing in and scaling up high-quality and affordable pathways to teaching. The Department also is supporting efforts to better prepare, develop, and retain talented and diverse educators in America’s schools. Robust investments and strategic action in the areas below represent key policy levers to eliminate educator shortages.

Stabilize the Profession:

The Department is continuing to support states in using $122 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to eliminate educator shortages. Independent analysts found that school districts plan to spend nearly $30 billion in ARP ESSER funds on staffing, including the recruitment, preparation, training, and retention of teachers.

In addition, the Department will continue to make clear how other program funds can be used to help sustain investments made with ESSER IESSER II and ARP ESSER funds.

Improve Teacher Compensation and Working Conditions:

Increasing teacher compensation is critical to effectively recruiting and retaining the teachers that schools need. But teachers earn 24 percent less than comparable college graduates, a pay gap that has grown over time, and that can inhibit people from choosing to become teachers and staying in the profession. From 1996 to 2021, weekly wages for public school teachers, adjusted for inflation, increased by only $29, in comparison to an increase of $445 in professions requiring a college education.

The map below highlights average teacher starting salaries and top salaries, according to district salary schedules, as well as average teacher pay overall in each state, as of the 2021-2022 school year. The salary levels included in the map only reflect salaries at the time of data collection and do not include planned changes not yet fully implemented (such as salary increases phased in over multiple years) or take into account variation in the cost-of-living from state to state. The map highlights, with a star, the states that have taken action to increase teacher salaries.

Starting, Top, and Average Teacher Compensation, 2021-2022
(download data as a spreadsheet)


The Department will continue to emphasize the need for teachers to be paid competitively and use teacher compensation data to encourage states to better compensate educators.

The Department also will make clear how Title I can support investments in educators and continue to work toward increasing funding for this critical program, building on the additional $1.9 billion secured since fiscal year 2021. The Department also will provide technical assistance and oversight in the implementation of $2.2 billion in Title II formula funding for recruiting, preparing, and training high-quality teachers, principals, and other school leaders.

Promote Career Ladders for Teachers:

Career advancement and leadership opportunities that allow teachers to grow professionally and earn additional compensation while remaining in the classroom can support effective teacher recruitment, retention, and growth. This includes, for example, distributive leadership models that support teachers’ leadership alongside their principal and other school leaders to facilitate positive schoolwide change; teacher-led instructional improvement efforts focused on specific areas of academic content; opportunities to shape schoolwide policies and climate and lead professional learning communities; programs for master teachers who support the development of other educators, teacher mentorship programs, and job-embedded content coaching; and the implementation of advisory systems.

With the appropriate supports, such as release time and additional compensation for additional responsibilities, teacher leadership and advancement can support improved student outcomes and teacher recruitment and retention.

The Department will continue to highlight the importance of career ladders for teachers and invest in those efforts, including emphasizing how opportunities for teachers to lead beyond the classroom improves student learning, working conditions, and teacher retention.  For example, the Department has expressed in our budget proposals our desire to build on the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program's support of projects that test, replicate, and scale evidence-based practices for improving educator recruitment and retention.

Support Effective New Teacher Induction and Ongoing Professional Learning:

To succeed in the classroom, new teachers need not only high-quality educator preparation programs with robust clinical experience, they also need effective induction programs that provide job-embedded professional development and support. Effective induction and ongoing, high-quality professional learning are critical to teacher retention and to maximizing the impact of teachers on student achievement and other positive student outcomes.

The Department will continue to highlight and invest in high-quality professional learning programs, make clear how program funds can be used, and press for additional funding for the development of school leaders so they can most effectively support the growth of their teachers.

Support High-Quality and Affordable Educator Preparation:

Expanding access to high-quality and affordable educator preparation is critical to eliminating educator shortages and providing students with the high-quality teachers they need to succeed.

Despite declines in previous years, annual total enrollment in educator preparation programs increased by 7 percent from 2018-2019 to 2020-2021, an increase of more than 41,000 enrollees.

However, these changes in enrollment have varied widely by state and type of program. The chart below shows changes in enrollment during these periods by state and for enrollment in traditional educator preparation programs, alternative programs based at an institution of higher education, and alternative programs not based at an institution of higher education.

The size of any change in enrollment should be considered in the context of individual states’ educator shortages. States with greater pre- and post-pandemic shortages will have greater needs to increase educator preparation program enrollment than states with less significant shortages.

Educator Preparation Program Enrollment (EPP), AY 2018-2019 to 2020-2021
(download data as a spreadsheet)


The Department is leveraging key grant programs to support high-quality and affordable educator preparation. And to continue increasing the pipeline of teachers entering the profession, the Department is working to reduce and eliminate barriers to becoming a teacher while upholding and improving quality.

Registered Apprenticeship Programs, for example, can be an effective, high-quality “earn-and-learn” model that allows candidates to obtain their teaching credential while earning a salary by combining coursework with structured, paid on-the-job learning experiences with a mentor teacher. While at the start of 2022 there were only registered programs in two states, now states across the country have registered programs.

Registered Teacher Apprenticeships for K-12 Teachers 2023
(download data as a spreadsheet)


The Department of Education is continuing its partnership with the Department of Labor and its work with national education organizations to expand the use of high-quality registered apprenticeship programs for teachers.

Additionally, the Department of Education will continue to advance proposed regulations to make income-driven student loan repayment more affordable than ever, which will help reduce student loan debt for teachers.

The Department also addressed challenges with Public Service Loan Forgiveness, helping public servants, including educators, receive billions in immediate debt relief. Additionally, the Department addressed previous challenges with incorrect grant-to-loan conversions for TEACH Grants, making it easier for teachers to successfully participate in this program.

Promote Educator Diversity:

Increasing the diversity of our educator workforce is critical to supporting the academic success of all students. Studies suggest that all students, and particularly students of color, benefit from having teachers of color. For students of color, exposure to teachers of their race or ethnicity can increase academic achievement, attendance, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment. Unfortunately, while more than 50 percent of public school students are students of color, only roughly 20 percent of teachers are teachers of color.

To increase educator diversity, the Department has included priorities in its budget focused on educator diversity in numerous grant programs. We will continue to use a range of federal grant programs to support teacher diversity throughout our efforts to recruit, develop, and retain teachers.  

Sampling of ARP Funding Highlights:

Districts are estimated to spend $30 billion of their American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds on staffing, investing in teacher recruitment, development, hiring, and retention efforts. With the support of ARP funds:

  • Missouri and Maryland are creating Grow-Your-Own programs to hire additional, high-quality teachers. Maryland's program may train and support more than 300 new teachers and 100 new paraprofessionals and help more than 400 conditionally certified teachers pass licensure exams, while building sustainable pipelines.
  • Mississippi is funding a teacher residency program. The state also partners with local school districts and five university partners to grow its teaching ranks.
  • The Nevada Department of Education created the "Incentivizing Pathways to Teaching" Grant Program to grow Nevada's educator workforce.
  • Iowa is investing in the establishment of registered apprenticeship programs for teachers in 19 school districts across the state.

Grants and Resources:


  • More than $2 billion in federal funds through the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II, Part A) are being put to use to address inequities in access to effective teachers for underserved students, provide professional development, reduce class sizes, improve teacher recruitment and preparation, increase the diversity of the teacher workforce, and a range of other activities.
  • To increase the number of highly effective educators, the Department is investing $90 million to support the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators through the Supporting Effective Educator Development program.
  • More than $170 million in new awards and continuation grants for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program are supporting high-needs schools to provide career advancement opportunities for effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders and to improve the process for recruiting, selecting, supporting, and retaining effective teachers and school leaders.
  • To better prepare and support our special education teachers, the Department is providing $115 million for IDEA Part D grants through new and continuation grants for the Personnel Preparation program.
  • The Department also is investing $70 million in high-quality teacher preparation programs, such as residencies and grow-your-own programs by awarding up to 20 additional grants for the Teacher Quality Partnership program.
  •  $15 million through the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help to increase the number of diverse and talented teachers by funding programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges and Universities.
  • The Department also is providing additional resources to support teacher recruitment and retention through the Education Innovation and Research program.


  • To capture the ways in which the Department is working to support educators and eliminate the educator shortage at every school, the agency released a one-pager (en Español).
  • The Department released a Dear Colleague Letter and factsheet encouraging states and districts to use ARP funds to address labor shortages, highlighting evidence-based strategies; and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh issued a joint letter calling on states to address the educator shortage by strengthening pathways into the teaching profession, including through the use of high-quality paid Registered Apprenticeship programs for teaching, and to ensure teachers are paid a livable and competitive wage.
  • The Department's factsheet, Sustaining Investments in Teachers Beyond the American Rescue Plan, highlights additional federal resources available to sustain ARP investments in key strategies that attract, prepare, support, and retain a diverse teacher workforce and address teacher shortages for the long-term.
  • The Department's Dear Colleague Letter and companion fact sheet underscores that Perkins funds can be used to improve the recruitment and preparation of future educators, including career and technical education (CTE) teachers.
  • The Department issued a FAQ resource on using ESSER and GEER funds for student transportation, including for addressing shortages of bus drivers.
  • And the Department continues to work with the Regional Education Laboratories and Comprehensive Center Network to provide technical assistance to support states and districts in addressing teacher shortages, including by improving retention.
  • The Department is partnering with outside organizations to address educator shortages and has announced new private- and nonprofit-sector actions making it easier for Americans to find job opportunities in the education field, supporting school districts in competing for talent in the current tight labor market, and addressing the educator shortage in critical subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Financial Aid Resources

  • Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, after a borrower has made 10 years of qualifying monthly payments while working for a qualifying employer, the remaining balance on a Direct Loan is forgiven. ​Full-time elementary and secondary school teachers and others working in public or private nonprofit schools meet the employment eligibility requirements of PSLF.
  • An income-driven repayment plan sets your monthly student loan payment at an amount that is intended to be affordable based on your income and family size. Depending on your income and family size, you may have no monthly payment at all.
  • TEACH Grants provide up to $4,000 per year to undergraduate and graduate students who are completing or plan to complete coursework needed to become a teacher and commit to teaching in a high-need area.
  • The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program forgives up to $17,500 of Direct or Federal Stafford Loans after five complete and consecutive years of teaching at a qualifying school.
  • Perkins Loan Cancellation for teachers forgives up to 100% of your Federal Perkins Loans if you teach full-time at a school serving a high population of students from low-income backgrounds, or if you teach certain subjects.