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ENEWS: Labor shortages in Minnesota — especially in education

Date Published: 10/07/2021

Author: Erin Wilson

Labor shortages in Minnesota — especially in education 

This week’s newsletter will focus on labor shortages in education and beyond, both in Minnesota and countrywide. Schools are dealing with not only COVID-19, but understaffing, struggling students, and frustrated parents, said MPR education reporter Elizabeth Shockman on Twitter. Shockman wrote this article at the end of September about school staff burnout. It outlines the day-to-day hurdles and exhaustion school staff are facing. In addition to teachers, school nurses, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers are all understaffed. In the article, a registered nurse for Osseo Senior High School describes witnessing teachers crying and having anxiety attacks over their workload on the second day of school. This article from the Star Tribune details the bus driver shortage in Minnesota, which has caused “major delays and scheduling headaches” as well as last-minute route cancellations, and in some cases pushed schools to incentivize families to drive their kids to school. 

“On top of longstanding challenges like pay and irregular hours, they said many drivers have opted out of the field because of COVID-19-related health concerns, more frequent schedule shifts, and other pandemic-related complications,” the article said, sourcing a September news conference with drivers and union leaders. 

It’s not just a Minnesota problem. These shortages are occurring across the U.S. This interactive map from The 74 shows the breadth of these school staff shortages, which are happening in all 50 states. You can click on any state to read a snippet on a local shortage and/or how the community is dealing with it. The accompanying article cites an Idaho school that closed due to “excessive staff absences,” a Pennsylvania school where the cafeteria worker shortage resulted in no breakfast or lunch for students one day, and students not even able to make it to school due to the bus driver shortage.  And the shortages don’t end in schools. This MPR segment discusses the country’s general labor shortage in the service industry— coffee shops with reduced hours due to understaffing, canceled school bus routes from the driver shortage, and long-term care centers unable to accept residents because of too few nursing assistants. 

(Thank you to Elizabeth Shockman of MPR for the Twitter thread with these stories). 

Check out the Equity Map summaries! 

If you’re interested in the Minnesota Equity Map but haven’t had time to read through all the stories, you can check out our social media for super short summaries of different organizations/initiatives featured on it! It’s a fast way to get a sense for the map and the sort of equity work happening across the state. Check out our Facebook and Twitter for the summaries and stay tuned for more! And as always, please share the map webpage around your network or with any organizations, initiatives and activists that you think may want to add their work! For it to most effectively uplift that work and serve as a tool for change and legislative advocacy, we need more of your stories! 

Annual Broadband Conference 

The Blandin Foundation’s 2021 Broadband Conference is next week (Oct. 12-14)! It will take place online and build on different regional gatherings that took place around the state. G &J has participated on the planning team; join us for discussion on broadband efforts happening around the state as well as what work still needs to be done. You can find more information and register here. 


After 18 months of shuttered schools, children across the country are back in class — but thousands of teachers and other critical school workers across the country are not. Faced with burnout, low wages and now COVID-19, scores of education workers — including not just teachers but also school bus drivers, special education paraprofessionals, cafeteria and afterschool workers, nurses, school safety agents and custodians — have left their posts.” — The 74 article

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