The 2022-23 academic year may be challenging for the United States! As a new school year begins, a growing teacher shortage is worse than ever, with thousands of unfilled teaching positions nationwide. Some districts have already started their academic year, and almost all will be in session by the beginning of September. While some high school seniors may notice a shortage of teachers, both full-time and substitute, they may also see a change in military recruiters that often visit public high school campuses: a sudden shortage of enlistment over the last two years has the military scrambling. These shortages could be a huge deal, because public K-12 education is the biggest single spending item of states, and the military is the federal government’s single discretionary spending item.
How Could These Shortages Affect Us Financially?
The most immediate and wide-ranging effect of the teacher and military recruitment shortages would be increased taxes. Shortages occur in a market economy whenever the quantity supplied is less than the quantity demanded, which naturally drives up prices. To increase the quantity supplied of both teachers and soldiers, the government will have to offer more money. Since teachers are paid by a combination of state and local tax revenue, these taxes would have to be increased to provide all teachers within a state a raise. The U.S. military is federally funded, which means the federal government could either increase taxes or engage in more deficit spending, which could require a tax increase later to pay off the bonds sold during deficit spending.
Of course, tax increases are not popular, so both states and the federal government are unlikely to look at across-the-board tax hikes right away. Currently, states are reducing the formal requirements to become a public school teacher, such as allowing industry experience in a subject to replace a semester of student-teaching at the secondary level. The military allows those who do not meet its body fat or ASVAB test requirements to enlist on a preliminary basis, allowing recruits 90 days to get closer to the stated requirements by completing a trial program. These two changes make entering either field easier for high school graduates and may provide opportunities. Those interested in becoming a teacher may be able to complete all requirements in less time than before, and those interested in joining the military may have an easier time meeting physical and mental requirements.
With the public goal being to get more young people into teaching and the military, those who previously had trouble meeting the formal requirements may benefit by taking another look. For those exploring college options, more states are offering scholarship programs for those able and willing to go into public education. Thus, the teacher shortage may give lower-income high school students an additional pathway for getting a four-year university degree.
Individual Benefit Opportunities for Young People
While the teacher shortage may be seen as a long-term financial factor for most people, it could provide resume-building and job opportunities for high school students in the short term. School districts may open paying tutoring jobs to high school juniors and seniors, using motivated high school students to help manage academic stresses caused by the teacher shortage. Others may tutor young students for free, using the job to bolster a college application or resume. Peer-to-peer tutoring is often encouraged at any high school campus, and will be in greater demand as the teacher shortage drags on.
For those interested in military service, it is worth noting that the recruitment shortage has led to higher enlistment bonuses in 2022. Those who may have preferred other options to military enlistment may want to re-evaluate now that the armed services are offering more lucrative bonuses, especially given that these bonuses can be combined with benefits like the GI Bill to fully fund a college education during and after one’s term of service. Enlistment bonuses differ by military occupational specialty (MOS), your job while in service, so it’s important to check this out to be fully informed. And not all branches have the same policies, so do your research! For example, the Army offers both enlistment bonuses and options for shorter two-year enlistments, likely driven by the fact that the military recruitment shortage is most severe for that branch.
Many high school students may not be interested in either career, but it’s always important to know how the labor market landscape is changing to make the best decision possible!