NJ union head worries about a potential teacher shortage due to COVID-19

As school districts grapple with the best way to reopen schools in the fall amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they may also face the question: How many teachers are willing to come back into the school building?

The leader of New Jersey's largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, said she is concerned about a teacher shortage with some teachers going into early retirement or requesting to continue working remotely.

Gov. Phil Murphy said recently that he understands that concern.

"I don't begrudge the educators for wanting to feel, have the confidence they need to come back in and do their craft, their life passion," he said, "but also do it without putting their personal health at risk."

NJEA represents about 200,000 school employees, including aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, maintenance workers, librarians, security guards, secretaries, teachers, and more.

In an interview with FOX 5 NY, NJEA President Marie Blistan said the union, so far, is seeing about an average number of educators putting in for retirement. But she is concerned about the near future.

"We are hearing more and more from our members who are not confident because they don't know what that future is going to hold," Blistan told Good Day New York on Friday. "We have a national teacher shortage anyway, which has been well documented across the United States and including it will eventually and surely hit here in the state of New Jersey."

Blistan said that shortage, separate from the pandemic, already worried her. And now she believes that unanswered questions about when scientists will find a vaccine or an effective treatment for COVID-19 will affect the influx of new teachers and the expected retirement of teachers from the Baby Boomer generation.

"It's been extremely challenging and difficult and we share that worry with all of our stakeholders," Blistan said about the uncertainty around the plans for schools to reopen.

She added that many school districts are already pushing back their calendars because they can't finalize plans in place in time.

"We're not looking at a date on the calendar to open schools. We're looking at the date when it's safe," she said. "We have to look at these conditions and say that we can't just mandate the schools are automatically going to open."



Get breaking news alerts in the FOX5NY News app. It is FREE! Download for iOS or Android