In This Episode
- Students across the country head back to school this month, but tens of thousands of teacher positions remain vacant and more than 160,000 positions are filled by under-qualified teachers. We’re joined by Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, to learn more about the nationwide teacher shortage.
- And in headlines: Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case officially started to turn themselves in, members of the Teamsters union ratified their new labor contract, and sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson is now the fastest woman in the world.
- NEA’s Guide To Fixing Educator Shortages – nea.org/solutions
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, August 23rd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where we just might consider using Threads now that it’s debuting a desktop version this week.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah Juanita, you are speaking for yourself. [laughter] I’m not an X girl obviously, but I’m not a Threads girl. I think I just am on Substack.
Juanita Tolliver: Oh, I have never ventured to that land. Okay, like drop a link. [laughing] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, Trump’s co-defendants in Georgia have started to turn themselves in. Plus–
[clip of unspecified sports announcer] Here comes Sha’Carri Richardson! Sha’Carri’s done it!
Priyanka Aribindi: Sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson is now the fastest woman in the world.
Juanita Tolliver: When I tell y’all, I was jumping and screaming so loud for so long, watching that live. Truly a moment.
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, students across the country are heading back to school right now. But school districts once again can’t find enough teachers. Tens of thousands of teacher positions across the country are vacant, according to research from Kansas State University. That same study also said more than 160,000 positions are filled by underqualified teachers. There are a lot of reasons why it’s hard to hire and retain teachers. There’s emotional burnout. There’s also low wages. A report from Slate found that between 1996 and 2021, the inflation adjusted weekly pay of public school teachers increased just $29. And the COVID 19 pandemic, as we all know, made the teacher shortage way worse. Because of that, what we’re seeing our schools relying on long term substitutes, last minute hires with little or no certifications and increasing class sizes. Ultimately, this all hurts students. They need all the support they can get. As data from standardized testing shows students falling behind in key areas.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it is very grim. And these are issues that will have lasting repercussions for an entire generation to come. You know, like you said, schools have been facing this issue for some time now the last several years. So what does this all mean for the state of American education at this time?
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, the same thing was on my mind. So I had a conversation with Becky Pringle, who is the president of the largest educators union, the National Education Association. And I asked her for help to put all of this in context. Pringle spent more than 30 years teaching in a classroom herself. So I started out by asking her to explain what these staffing shortages look and feel like from the perspective of a teacher.
Becky Pringle: As educators who are in classrooms and worksites across this country are faced with an educator shortage, that not only means that in some instances the class sizes are doubling. It not only means that they may not have that nurse or counselor they need to meet those extra mental health needs of their students. But it also means that in a career where we never could find enough time to do all of the things that are required of us as educators, that even more is asked of us, and we’re asked to step into more and more gaps for more and more students. And so in this moment, for educators all over this country, it is a moment of reckoning for them in many ways, because they’re asking themselves, can I still do this job without the supports that I always needed? But with more and more that’s required of me.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. And you talk about classroom sizes doubling. I I’ve got to imagine that’s definitely going to have an impact on the students. So in your conversations across the country with educators, what specifically do you hear is driving this kind of nationwide shortage, this specific school year?
Becky Pringle: I will tell you the word they used that kind of summed it up. But it’s complex, more complex than one word. The word they used was respect. That I’m not respected as a professional to make teaching and learning decisions. I am not respected as a professional that you would give me a professional pay so I don’t have to work two and three jobs, that I am not respected to use my professional authority and collective autonomy to do what’s best for not just some students within the confines of my classroom, but to make those leadership kind of decisions that are best for my school community and for the larger community. Um. They summed it up in that way. And so as we point towards solutions for the crisis, it’s going to have to be, again, a shared responsibility to address it. It’s complex. It’s not one thing. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not one raise this year. No, we have to get to the fundamental reason why a profession that’s dominated by women has continued to fall behind and experience what we call wage penalty gap between similarly situated professionals based on experience and education. Why we do not pay our educators in a way that reflects the important work they do in this society? The solutions have to be foundational and systemic and sustained to actually get at what I’ve heard educators all over this country talk about the reason why.
Juanita Tolliver: What should we expect to see from students? Are you anticipating more setbacks when it comes to learning benchmarks or social development benchmarks?
Becky Pringle: And as I listen to our students, they’re not only concerned about the fact that they don’t have enough teachers and other staff available to them, They also talk about the impact of politics in their classrooms and their freedom to learn being impacted in this moment with the culture wars. They’re watching us. They’re watching what’s happening in our society. It’s impacting them all the time. And for them to articulate what it means for them not to have a teacher or have a sub all the time or not to have someone who has been certified in math that’s in front of them. And they know the impact that will have in what they learn that year. They can articulate it better than anyone else can articulate because they’re feeling it. So we know that the recovery from the pandemic, the reality that so many students who have been historically marginalized already had gaps, that exacerbated those gaps. Um. Black, Brown, Indigenous students in particular, students with disabilities, students living in poverty. Our LGBTQ+ students. That impact on them is even greater. They see it, they feel it, they know it, and they are looking at us and saying, what are you going to do about the fact that I don’t have a caring, qualified, certified teacher in my math classroom?
Juanita Tolliver: What other solutions are front of mind for you about what needs to be done to get more educators into the classrooms and to keep the ones that are already there?
Becky Pringle: What I’ve witnessed and fought for, because I see the evidence, both anecdotal and through research, is the concept of community schools. So we watch our students eat half of their lunch and take half back to their families. We’ve watched that for years. But even more so, you saw this in the pandemic when educators went to parking lots of libraries and set up with busses. Right. The first part of building a community school is determining together as a community what the greatest needs are. And then from that, they determine what their solutions are and then what resources they need. And then they do it in the collective and collaborative way. But I have the honor of listening to educators all over this country. And even when they tell me these challenges and they’re crying in my arms, honestly, I have but to ask them, why did you go into teaching? What are you most hopeful for for this coming year? The tears give way to this glimmer in their eyes, and I know it. I recognize it right away, is their kids. And my hope comes from listening to educators and being so incredibly proud of them in this moment as they stand in those gaps and continue to do what they must and lift up their voices and advocate and and they’re active in trying to get their kids what they need and what they so deserve. That’s what gives me hope.
Juanita Tolliver: That was my conversation with Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. And I’m just grateful for teachers, educators, administrators, school staff and bus drivers who do this tireless work for the kids. There’s so much work to be done to ensure that they have everything that they need. And the NEA has outlined solutions and policy recommendations based on their research. We’ll be sure to include the link to their solutions in our show notes. And of course, we’ll continue following the issues impacting educators and students. But that’s the latest for now. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case officially started turning themselves in yesterday. As a reminder, all co-defendants have until Friday at noon Georgia time to surrender. Conservative attorney John Eastman turned himself into authorities on Tuesday and was booked at the Fulton County Jail. He is accused of pushing, quote, “alternate” electors in Georgia after the 2020 election and is charged with nine counts, including racketeering, filing false documents and conspiracy to commit forgery. Bail bondsman Scott Hall also turned himself in to the Fulton County Jail yesterday. He faces charges related to his alleged involvement in a voting systems breach in Coffee County, Georgia. Meanwhile, two other defendants are trying to transfer the case to federal court. And former White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows filed an emergency motion yesterday asking a federal judge to either move his case to federal court or issue an order preventing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from seeking his arrest. As for Trump himself, he is expected to surrender to authorities tomorrow. So just you wait. It’s coming. It’s coming.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s definitely coming. And also, my favorite part about the Mark Meadows filing was the email from D.A. Willis’ office, where she signed off with yours in service, D.A. Willis. Like, give me that energy. I love this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I guess I don’t really have an excuse to use that as a sign off, but it’s going to become my new go to. [laughter] It’s my new great thanks. The passive aggressive, professional email sign off that we all need.
Juanita Tolliver: Clearly.
Priyanka Aribindi: In our back pocket. I love it.
Juanita Tolliver: Hearings began yesterday for the potential removal of the floating buoy barrier at Texas’s Rio Grande River, which has been criticized for humanitarian and environmental concerns. To get you up to speed, the Justice Department sued Texas last month and asked a federal judge to order the state to take down the floating barrier. The suit argued that the installation violated the Rivers and Harbors Act, a law that requires a permit from the federal government to build structures in U.S. waters that are, quote, “navigable.” Both sides have until Friday to submit their written closing arguments. And in other messed up Texas news, the state bussed a group of 37 migrants to Los Angeles on Sunday night through Monday morning. That’s right when Tropical Storm Hilary swept through Southern California, the group of migrants, including 15 children and a three week old infant, left Brownsville, Texas, at 5 p.m. Sunday and arrived just over 24 hours later. L.A. Mayor Karen Bass responded to the decision on X, formerly known as Twitter, by writing, quote, “While we were urging Angelinos to stay safe, the governor of Texas was sending a bus with families and toddlers straight towards us, knowing they’d have to drive right into an unprecedented storm.” It really just shows how Governor Abbott and the state of Texas have absolutely no regard or appreciation for the human beings.
Priyanka Aribindi: Zero.
Juanita Tolliver: They’re doing this to.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s despicable. Members of the Teamsters Union representing over 350,000 UPS workers nationwide ratified their new labor contract yesterday. That means that all fears of a nationwide strike were officially put to bed. This comes after the delivery company reached a tentative agreement with workers in late July, after months of contentious negotiations for better pay, working conditions and benefits. The new deal promises immediate raises across the board and higher yearly raises for full time workers. And you’ll remember that it also includes a guarantee that all new UPS vehicles will include an air conditioning unit to keep workers safe from heat related illnesses in warmer weather. Just as you pointed out, Juanita, a thing that is not particularly new on the scen.
Juanita Tolliver: At all. A couple of decades late, but I’m glad they got there. Better late than never.
Priyanka Aribindi: True. Better late than never. But it’s wild. 86% of union members voted in favor of the new agreement. That is the highest approval rating of a contract in UPS history. Teamsters President Sean O’Brien released a statement on Tuesday after the vote writing, quote, “This is the template for how workers should be paid and protected nationwide, and nonunion companies like Amazon better pay attention.”
Juanita Tolliver: What’d I tell you where I come from, we will call those fighting words. And I’m sure Amazon employees are looking like, brah, we need to get in on this because, wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, that seems exactly what it is intended to do. So, listen, I hope that this has effects beyond just UPS.
Juanita Tolliver: Some good news for parents. The FDA earlier this week approved the first vaccine for pregnant people to protect their babies against RSV or respiratory syncytial virus. RSV can be very serious, even life threatening for young children. And it’s the leading cause of hospitalizations for the very young. So this is a huge development. Pfizer’s maternal vaccination will be given during the third trimester of pregnancy and will protect infants through six months of age. It will work by allowing the parent to develop antibodies against the virus that they can then pass along to the fetus. Next, the CDC must issue recommendations for use of the vaccine during pregnancy. I love this. I love every bit of this. But I also suspect we’re also going to see a anti-vaxxer campaign right alongside it.
Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, for some heartwarming news, this time from the world of sports.
[clip of unspecified sports announcer] Here comes Sha’Carri Richardson! Sha’Carri’s done it! Sha’Carri Richardson has won the world title!
Priyanka Aribindi: American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson officially became the fastest woman in the world on Monday after winning the 100 meter race at the World Athletic Championships. Her time was a personal best of 10.65 seconds, and she edged out her competition by less than a 10th of a second when she crossed the finish line though if you watch the video like she has it in the bag, it doesn’t seem close at all. [laughter] This is a huge moment for Richardson, who has been working to make a comeback to the world of track and field for years now. You’ll remember that she came very close to competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but she was disqualified just weeks before the games when she tested positive for marijuana. Richardson’s victory at the world championships officially puts her in the running, zero pun intended there, for the upcoming Paris Olympics next year. All very excited to watch that. Take a listen to what the sprinter told reporters after her big win.
[clip of Sha’Carri Richardson] It’s been a lot I’ve been going through, but to overcome all of that and my work speaking for itself, been so silent this year because I wanted my performance to speak all the words that I needed to speak myself. It feels amazing. It feels like everything [?] paid off.
Juanita Tolliver: I love every bit of this. I love that she did this 1,000% for herself. I love that she shut up all the haters and I–
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: –also love that after giving it their all, both Shericka and Shelly-Ann immediately came to celebrate Sha’Carri. They even shared a little kiki moment on the track, which, come on, I’m here for the sisterhood.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, we love it. This was so exciting to see. I was among these so many people who were so upset when she wasn’t able to compete in the Olympics, was so looking forward to that out of the 2021 games. And it is just amazing to see her back and better than ever. Like, there is nothing I think, that could make this [?] right here happier, like this is very just happy, exciting news for all of us.
Juanita Tolliver: Over the moon. [laugh]
Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with ideas on how to make something mediocre a little more bearable. We are talking about the show, And Just Like That.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check. [Sex and the City music revamped plays]
Priyanka Aribindi: Saucy version.
Juanita Tolliver: How have I never heard this?
Priyanka Aribindi: I know it’s a different. I I like it. But anyways. MAX, formerly known as HBO Max has renewed And Just Like That for a third season. A very lucky, for those of you who are like me and um cannot peel yourself away from this train wreck of a show. In a statement, showrunner Michael Patrick King said that he is excited to tell quote, “new stories about the lives of these relatable and aspirational characters.” [laugh] Couldn’t even get through that without a laugh.
Juanita Tolliver: Why does it sound like he’s describing Real Housewives cast members. This is literally what Bravo puts out in their casting call. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: LTW’s an aspirational, I don’t really know if I’m aspiring to be anybody else on that show. [laughing] But–
Juanita Tolliver: Noted, noted. But I think the real question is, Michael, can you make any of those stories good? Like seriously? Because any time Miranda clumsily tries to be woke is just giving cringe to the nth degree. I hate it. I hate it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it really is. And like, more so in season one than this season, I will say it’s come back, but like, season one was just like toe curling. Like, oooh, I felt that in my soul and–
Juanita Tolliver: Every minute.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s like I’m watching through my hands that are covering my eyes. [laughter] Anyways, there are so many bad storylines in this series, so we here at WAD want to gift you and the staff of And Just Like That, just a couple of ideas for this next season, while you’re on strike and not writing.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: We’re not on strike so we can do this.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. This is ideation stage that’s all.
Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, Juanita, what have you got for us? What do you want to see?
Juanita Tolliver: I feel like it’s an overarching theme and recommendation to stop using the Black and Brown characters as filler for these basic white women. I’m talking when you have powerhouses like Sara Ramírez and Nicole Ari Parker and Karen Pittman, Sarita Choudhury, like, do not give them abbreviated plot lines with just a little sex highlight every fifth episode. Like [laughing] give them full stories because they are full humans.
Priyanka Aribindi: I agree.
Juanita Tolliver: And I know that’s not something our friend Michael has done before. But when the strike is over, please hire some Black and Brown writers full time to work on this for you because you need it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Honestly, I’d watch the spin off with just them. Truly. Like.
Juanita Tolliver: [gasp] Can we posit that?
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s fine. It’s fine. They go their separate ways. That’s my Sex and the City. Anyways, my story ideas. Let me think here. I cannot see what they cook up for us next. I feel like my one real suggestion though is like if you’re going to write Che Diaz like these, like comedy sets, like please have a comedian write them. Like, what the–
Juanita Tolliver: Oh my gosh.
Priyanka Aribindi: –fuck is going on? [laughing]
Juanita Tolliver: Oh my gosh, please.
Priyanka Aribindi: What’s happening? Please? That’s my one. Just anybody. Anybody remotely funny. That would be lovely. [laughter] And just like that, we have checked our temps. I feel like, you know, we contributed some things to improve this show.
Juanita Tolliver: 100%.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Hopefully we did not cross a writer’s picket line. [laughter] All love and respect to the writers, solidarity. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, support your teachers and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just better written episodes of And Just Like That, like me. What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/Subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And get your popcorn ready for tonight’s debate.
Priyanka Aribindi: But honestly, if you skip out on it, it’s fine [laughter] because we will watch for you. We will do your homework. We will be here tomorrow morning.
Juanita Tolliver: We’ll have the play by play for you. We will do that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So you can eat your popcorn and watch something better. Watch And Just Like That, that will make you cringe less than the debate, I can guarantee.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m like, not sure. [laughing] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.