Second-grader Clara Evans, center, looks up at her teacher, Ann Shisler, as she reads, “Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons: An Enslaved Woman Fights for Freedom,” in their classroom at Eliot Elementary School in February. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Maine Department of Education has released a list of teaching positions that are in high demand and will qualify for emergency hiring rules next year.

Next school year, the state expects a shortage of teachers in health and physical fitness, special education, computer science, music, social studies, early childhood, art, English, English as a second language, science and math.

The designations mean Maine schools can hire people without a teaching license if they have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience, are either enrolled in a teacher training program or have the highest education technician certification, and have submitted to a criminal background check.

The annual list, put together in coordination with the federal Department of Education, comes as Maine and the entire U.S. continue to be plagued by teaching shortages. Maine, like many states, does not regularly publish statewide data on unfilled teacher positions, so it’s difficult to assess the severity of the shortage.

The most recent data on unfilled teaching positions in Maine is from the 2017-18 school year when there were almost 700 teacher vacancies.

In the 2021-22 school year there were a total of 15,418 teachers in Maine, according to state data. Of those, 276 were underqualified – teaching in a subject they are not licensed to teach in – and 13 were using emergency certificates, according to state data.


Those in Maine’s education field say low compensation is the primary reason it is difficult to attract and retain teachers.

The minimum salary is $40,000, which is lower than in any other New England state and in the bottom half of starting salaries nationally. The average current living wage – the amount one must earn to support themselves – in Maine for a single individual with no children is $45,843, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By county, the lowest living wage in Maine is $40,851, in Aroostook County. The highest is $48,620 in Cumberland County.

Educators and activists in recent years have repeatedly called on the state to raise the minimum salary for teachers and other educators. The state Legislature passed bills last year to increase pay for teachers and education technicians, but the bills were not funded.

The Maine Education Association, a union representing more than 23,000 education professionals, is continuing to advocate for higher pay and is pushing for the passage of two bills: one to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 by the 2027-28 school year and another to make the minimum salary for education technicians equal to 150% of the state minimum wage, and the minimum salary for other hourly school support staff equal to 125% of the minimum wage.

The minimum wage in Maine is $14.15, which would make the minimum salary for ed-techs $21.23 and the minimum wage for other school hourly support staff $17.69.

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