Report: CA Teacher Shortage Persists, Hits High-Poverty Schools Hardest

Suzanne Potter California News Service
A new study shows that teachers continue to leave the profession faster than they can be replaced. Photo Credit: Unsplash

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In California and across the nation, districts are struggling to hire enough teachers. And the shortage is getting worse, according to a new report.

There remains a supply gap of about 110,000 teachers nationwide as of last school year, primarily because more teachers are quitting or switching schools, and fewer people are entering the profession. Emma Garcia coauthored the report from the Economic Policy Institute. She said a lot of the problems could be fixed with more investment to raise salaries, lower classroom sizes and better fund schools overall.

“Working conditions, including pay, school climate and professional development, need to be improved,” Garcia said.

California is in the bottom ten nationwide – 44th for per-pupil spending. However the state has spent $200 million over the past few years to attract, train and retain more teachers.

2018 study by the Learning Policy Institute found the shortages are particularly acute in math, special education, science and bilingual education – and these issues are more severe in high-poverty school districts. It also found that school districts are increasingly hiring under-qualified applicants.

Garcia said to reverse the slide and attract bright young people to the profession, the country needs to give teachers the same respect – and earning potential – as they accord other professionals such as doctors and lawyers.

“It’s also a matter of societal changes, that we see teachers more like we see other professions, that we value teachers, that we appreciate the work that they do,” Garcia said.

Some experts say the years of layoffs and cost-cutting during the recession discouraged people from becoming teachers and created so much stress on teachers that many opted to leave the profession. The EPI report also found from 2008 to 2016, the U.S. saw more than a 27 percent drop in people completing teacher preparation programs and 15 percent drop in people receiving an education.