Put this under the list of "I wish it weren't so." Schools in California are opening without enough teachers. This problem has been brewing for years. There are many reasons why this is happening. Here are some of the most important:
A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute finds that the teacher pay gap is wider than ever. This is a big deal. College graduates, particularly women, now have job options that pay more.
But… what about benefits? Teachers get both wages and benefits. Don’t those make up the difference? The short answer is “No.” The Economic Policy Institute study finds that “although teachers on average enjoy better benefits packages than similar workers, benefits only mitigate part of the wage gap. Including benefits, teachers are still left with a record-high 11.1 percent compensation gap compared to similar workers.”
Teacher Job Loss and Fewer New Teachers
In the Great Recession many new teachers lost their jobs, which created a very real sense of job insecurity for students considering the teaching profession. Between 2007 and 2010, there was a drop of 11 percent in California’s teacher force -- and a much bigger drop in California's future teacher force.
The pay gap and job insecurity have led fewer and fewer people to enroll in California’s teacher preparation courses. Slim funding has caused school districts to defer or forego expenses like on-going teacher training and support. Increasingly, teaching and other education-related work fail to attract above-average students.
Will This Be Changing Fast?
Based on a recent ACT survey of incoming college students, the news is not so good. It found:
An Underfunded System
The teacher shortage is not just about not enough people wanting to become teachers. It is also about not enough people continuing as teachers. The rate of attrition in teaching in California is higher than in other places, and there is evidence that it has increased recently.
Teachers need good preparation, training and support. They need to feel the love. Alas, over the past years, this too has been the victim of an underfunded system.
California is a high-cost state. Per-student funding, when adjusted for cost of living, still remains near the lowest in the nation. Unfortunately, this combination of low funding and high costs translates into the largest class sizes in the nation. It also means that school districts struggle to provide the training and support teachers need to do their job well.
There are solutions.
Comments or suggestions? Send me a note at Carol@ed100.org
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