There are serious shortages of teachers from California to Oklahoma and Kentucky and places in between.
A big factor: Far fewer college students are enrolling in teacher training programs, as we reported this spring, exacerbating a long-standing shortage of special education, science and English-language-learner instructors. In California, enrollment in teaching programs is down more than 50 percent over the past five years. Enrollment is down sharply in Texas, North Carolina, New York and elsewhere.
Add to the mix stagnant pay, attrition, retirements, an improving economy as well as politicized fights over tenure and just about every other education issue and you've got the makings of a genuine problem — in some regions.
"All of those things together are creating a serious challenge for us," Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint tells NPR Ed. "The teacher shortage we're facing in Oakland is significantly more dire than in previous years. We just don't have as many teachers in the pipeline."
Heading into the new school year Aug. 24th, Oakland has some 50 classroom vacancies. "The biggest challenge this year has come from the nationwide teacher shortage impacting all education employers, especially California public schools," Superintendent Antwan Wilson wrote this week in an email to staff and parents.
California has more than 21 thousand teaching positions to fill. Districts laid off or eliminated some 80,000 teaching jobs between 2008 and 2012 during the Great Recession. And as the economy rebounds more young people have more options.
The shortage areas tend to be worse in districts with budget woes, a concentration of high-poverty areas and systems that are experiencing strong population growth.
For decades the conservatives have wanted to destroy public education in this country, and now it looks as if they are finally succeeding.
The problem is that the lack of teachers does not only impact public schools, but also the private schools and charter schools that the conservatives want to replace them with.
And the part that is so upsetting is that this was an easily predictable outcome that in their zeal to vilify educators the conservatives simply did not want to see.
I weep for our future.