School district leaders have felt a staffing crisis rumbling for more than a year, and the new school year is only reinforcing their fears about the challenges of recruiting educators and those who support them, according to an EdWeek Research Center report.

How bad is it?

Most schools are seeing fewer job candidates for crucial positions than during the same period last year, the EdWeek survey shows — and an even greater percentage of those polled are seeing fewer candidates than they need to keep their schools running optimally.

The nationally representative sample of 255 principals and 280 district leaders was conducted between June 29 and July 18. About three-quarters of respondents said the number of candidates this year for teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food service workers and custodial workers is insufficient.

Hiring challenges for bus drivers appear particularly painful. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they don’t have enough candidates to fill open bus driver positions. Seventy-nine percent said they have fewer applicants for those positions than they did last year.

Fewer than one-third of respondents said they have enough candidates for teachers, paraprofessional, and food service worker positions.

Schools are also struggling, though not as widely, to find enough administrators. Slightly more than one-third of district leaders and principals said they don’t have enough candidates for open administrator positions.

Administrators had been raising the alarm about hiring challenges throughout the 2021-22 school year. Many districts are seeing far greater staff challenges than the typical difficulties they face luring people to a profession characterized in many places by low pay, minimal benefits, high-stakes responsibilities and political controversy.

As school leaders know, when schools aren’t fully staffed, children lose services and instructional time, and staff is strained by trying to fill the gaps. And research shows that students with disabilities, students from poor families, and English-language learners are disproportionately harmed by staff shortages.