JERICHO, Long Island (PIX11) — In the majority of the more than 1,400 school districts in New York and New Jersey, the demand for teachers is outstripping supply, even as most families count down to the school year beginning.

The need is so acute across our region and nationwide that virtually every school district is affected in some way, as parents in one of the first districts in New York State to open for the school year acknowledged. 

“We’re lucky,” said Rijo Ninan, the parent of a pre-K student at Jeffrey Ratner-Robert Seaman Elementary in Jericho. “This area is really great,” he continued. “The reason we came here was the school district.”

In fact, according to New York State Department of Labor statistics, Long Island pays its teachers more than any of the state’s other nine regions, with a median salary above $97,000. That’s at least $20,000 more per year than any other region. 

As a result, Long Island tends to have less of a teacher shortage than other parts of the state, even though there’s still a need for more teachers. 

Also, it appears that money, while a significant factor, is not the only one. Surveys from earlier this year showed that 55% of teachers nationwide are thinking about leaving the profession earlier than planned and that, among school district leaders across the country, only 28% said their teacher numbers were sufficient.  By contrast, 72% — nearly three-quarters of all districts’ leaders — said the number of teachers they have is not enough.

Nicholas Ferroni, a Union City, NJ teacher named teacher of the year by two different organizations, said that issues involving teacher pay and curricula have been pressing since before the pandemic began. They’ve since intensified, he said.

“What happens when a child has an unqualified teacher, or has no teacher, or has a teacher who is burnt out because they’re teaching six, seven classes with 40 kids? That is the big issue,” he said in an interview.

Ferroni teaches history and cultural studies at the high school level. According to the New York State United Teachers organization, his discipline is among many where the need for teachers is far greater than the supply.

There’s also a significant shortage of special education, bilingual education, English as a Second Language, STEM, and English teachers.

Ferroni said that among the challenges is for communities to take teachers seriously and the lack of new ones joining the profession.

“If we do not invest in our public schools, we’re not investing in society. We’re not investing in our communities,” he said. “That’s not just in my district.  That’s everywhere.”