Parts of California, Oklahoma Struggling with Teacher Shortages


After years of laying teachers off, school districts across the country are now finding themselves in an about-face as they try to fill empty teaching positions, especially in the areas of math, science and special education.

The situation comes as a result of the improving economy, which many feel has caused fewer people to decide to go into the education field.  Teacher preparation program enrollment across the country has dropped by almost 30% between 2010 and 2014, and some feel that the rush to fill these open positions will result in unqualified teachers and a weakening of school systems across the country.

While districts are dealing with a shortage of teachers, more English language learner students are entering the school system, putting more pressure on administration to find bilingual teachers.  As a result, schools are looking everywhere they can for new teachers, whether it be in state or out, and trying to attract new teachers even earlier than before. Some are asking prospective candidates to train on the job or hiring teachers who have not yet received their teaching credentials, writes Motoko Rich for The New York Times.

“We are no longer in a layoff situation,” said Monica Vasquez, chief human resources officer for the San Francisco Unified School District, which offered early contracts to 140 teachers last spring in a bid to secure candidates before other districts snapped them up. “But there is an impending teacher shortage,” Ms. Vasquez added, before correcting herself: “It’s not impending. It’s here.”

Although a large number of teachers were laid off during the recession, the situation was the worst in California, where 82,000 jobs were lost between 2008 and 2012, according to statistics from the Labor Department.  While the state needs to fill 21,500 positions this year, fewer than 15,000 new teaching credentials will be issued, reports Kelly Ryan for CBS Sacramento.

“You had several years were all you heard was teachers are being laid off, so those young folks going to college haven’t chose to get your teaching credential,” said Trent Allen with the San Juan district.

The situation is not much better in other states, with a teacher shortage in Oklahoma reportedly worse this year than it had been in previous years with at least 1,000 positions across the state going unfilled.

A major reason behind the shortage appears to be that teacher pay remains unchanged, as the National Education Association reports that on average, teachers in the state make more than teachers in only three other states, making it difficult to attract and retain new teachers.