Skilled teachers are leaving the profession and fewer graduates are entering teaching, leading to a national teacher shortage.
Across the United States, the teacher shortage is increasing with each new school year. Though there is a decrease in teaching professionals, there are some optimistic educators who do continue to pursue degrees in education, but convincing them to stay in teaching is often a difficult task.
Behind the Exodus
The problem, explains the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), is not simply the devastating teacher shortage due to a 239,512 decrease in teaching-program enrollment between 2009 and 2014, but also retention of qualified educators who are willing to overcome hurdles in the system to simply make a difference. These problems plague teachers who make it past graduation from their teaching programs, as they discover that being a teacher in this country includes a lot of bureaucratic restrictions, ingratitude, and little or no assistance, reveals LPI president and founder, Linda Darling-Hammond.
“Teaching conditions have hit a low point in the United States in terms of salaries, working conditions and access to strong preparation and mentoring — all of which would attract and keep a stronger, more sustainable teaching pool.”
Show Them the Money
The problem is prevalent throughout the country, yet low-income areas have been more severely affected than others and life in a metropolis can cost much more than teachers are able to afford. In certain cities, such as San Francisco, school districts are offering incentives, such as signing bonuses, to newly hired teachers. Rushing to fill teacher and aide vacancies in special education roles during the 2016-17 school year, the San Francisco Unified School District offered a $4,000 bonus to special education teachers, school psychologists, behavior analysts, speech and language pathologists, and general education teachers who hold valid credentials.
Though teachers cite many reasons for leaving the profession, San Francisco Superintendent Richard A. Carranza believes that the high cost of city living could be eased by offering bonuses similar to those provided by his region.
“California is facing a significant teacher shortage, and that means we have unprecedented competition for credentialed teachers across the state. We are dedicated to ensuring that our students have the best professionals working with them in our classrooms. People want to teach in San Francisco public schools, but the cost of living in the Bay Area weighs heavy on their decision-making. We’re doing what we can within our means to recruit great educators.”
Decreasing the Teacher Shortage
In order to combat the teacher shortage, educators must see that their investment in this career will be worthwhile. Though cultivating young minds and preparing children for the future is admirable, teachers must also be able to pursue a high quality of life, not only because it’s desirable, but because they deserve it. As the teacher shortage continues, students will be robbed of quality education that will leave them unprepared for life after high school, unless talented educators can be convinced to enter the teaching field.
Being entrusted with educating future generations can be a rewarding, yet exhausting, job that leaves little room for being selfish. At the very least, teachers deserve competitive salary, excellent benefits, support of school administrations, government investment in modern classroom supplies, and teacher training and continuing education.