Teacher Shortages in the Age of Layoffs, or Vice Versa

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Four months after the media headline in most any California school district could easily have been “Deadline Looms for Teacher Layoff Notices,” the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is warning of a looming teacher shortage.

“At the very moment the need for outstanding educators seems most urgent, talented teachers are being displaced by budget cuts and discouraged by trying working conditions,” Superintendent Tom Torlakson wrote at the beginning of a new 96-page report, Greatness by Design, on the state of the profession and challenges in the immediate future.

Torlakson said the report does not paint a pretty picture because, “Sadly, ours has become a profession under siege.”

The report was put together by a 48-member task force co-chaired by Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond and Long Beach Unified superintendent Christopher Steinhauser.

Not surprisingly, a profession being battered by layoffs, budget cuts, pressure to tie teacher evaluations to student testing, bigger classrooms, fewer resources and political vilification for union membership, isn’t attracting a rush of college graduates. The number of students taking teacher preparation programs is half what it was a decade ago and the number of teaching credentials issued was off 40% between 2004 and 2010.

The number of teachers in the state dropped steadily since 2006 as the number of children in K-12 schools drifted down. But just as the teacher decline has upped its acceleration, school populations have begun to rise. More whipsawing is expected to ensue. “Projected increases in student enrollment and teacher retirements, along with reductions in class size, will likely increase the demand for teachers in coming years.”

Once layoffs are no longer in the picture and demand is up, the report cautions, don’t count on a rush back to the schoolroom. While confidently asserting that any “problems can be addressed,” it quotes a Los Angeles Times characterization of the job that sounds somewhat less than enticing: “Fifteen-hour work days. Unending paperwork. And the ever-increasing role of school board politics. . . . Plenty have the credentials for the job. Many don’t want it.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Report: Calif. Needs to Revamp Teaching Profession (by Christina Hoag, Associated Press)

Report: Teacher Shortage Looms for California (by Sharon Bernstein, NBC Los Angeles)

Far-Reaching Plan to Strengthen Teaching in California (by John Fensterwald, EdSource)

Greatness by Design (Task Force on Educator Excellence, California Department of Education) (pdf)

Leave a comment