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Days before the academic year starts, a well-funded hiring spree for Los Angeles schools is falling short of its goal to provide unprecedented and critical mental health and academic support as a shortage of teachers and other professionals collides with pandemic recovery goals.

The staffing ambitions of the nation’s second-largest school district have been sweeping — targeting hires to meet academic needs, mental and physical wellness and campus sanitation. And in all areas, staffing appears to be strengthened compared to pre-pandemic levels. But it’s also not what officials had hoped for — and leaders worry that important needs will not be met effectively.

Shortfalls are particularly pronounced in positions serving students most in need of academic and mental health recovery. Many teachers and counselors promised to elevate achievement and well-being of Black students haven’t been hired. Hundreds of special education and math teacher posts — the hardest to fill in normal times — are vacant. School nurses and mental health specialists are seemingly impossible to find. Half of the openings remain for school facilities and cleaning staff.

In all, the district had hoped to hire the equivalent of 4,389 full-time positions that require a professional credential for teaching or a related field. This would include librarians, principals, other administrators and counselors. Of these open slots, 2,000 — less than half — had been filled as of July 29, the most recent date for which figures are available.

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