According to the California Teachers Association, over the next ten years, California will need to replace about one-third of the current teachers. Data released earlier in the year indicates that “nearly one in three teachers leave the profession within seven years,” adding to the many issues impacting the teacher shortage crisis. Some other factors that affect the teacher shortage include funding levels and the decreasing enrollment in teacher-preparation programs in California.
Among those districts struggling to fill teacher positions is Fontana Unified School District. This district has endured many retirements which led to the need for more teachers. This year alone, Fontana Unified, serving 30,000 students, started the 16-17 academic year with 116 newly hired teachers and over 30 vacancies.
Over two months after the start of the school year, the district has shared that it is close to fully staffed now, but there are still clear troubles with recruiting teachers especially teachers with single-subject credentials in math, science, special education and speech.
The Associate Superintendent of Human Resources in Fontana Unified, Dr, Creswell, has shared what the district is doing to recruit across the state and nationwide to try and get ahead of the even more critical shortage that is predicted in the future. While this district is still exploring other creative methods to incentivize the teachers, it still has a lot of work to do.
Some educators, like the president of the Fontana Teachers Association (FTA), have pointed to the teacher layoffs during the Great Recession as one of the reasons why we are currently facing such a worrisome teacher shortage. During the recession, education was severely affected, forcing many districts to lay off teachers. Unfortunately, this action affected younger teachers as they were most vulnerable given the “last one hired, first one fired” practice. New teachers were left with no other option but to seek other opportunities outside of the field. Even when the state began to recover from the economic crash, many of those laid off teachers never came back. Since there were very limited teaching opportunities available, enrollment decreased in teacher preparation programs, further adding to the growing shortage.
In California, only a third of the state’s 25 largest districts started the school year without teacher vacancies. It will be critical for districts to be more innovative in their recruitment efforts. As Fontana Teacher Association officials have pointed out, adjustments to salary schedules and teacher ladders can help incentivize more people to want to join the teaching profession. Perhaps work in a think tank or other educational research center will help address the issues impacting the teacher shortage. Until then, districts will continue to struggle in silos hoping for better days to come for our students’ best.
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