Stronger incentives may be needed to fill teacher shortage

Stronger incentives may be needed to fill teacher shortage

(Calif.) With schools still facing a statewide teacher shortage and expecting a demand soon for bilingual teachers, experts are calling on lawmakers to create bigger recruitment incentives and equivalent penalties on those who fail to follow through.

Patrick Shields, executive director of the Learning Policy Institute told the Assembly Budget Subcommittee Tuesday, that a loan forgiveness program will only draw teaching prospects in if it covers the full cost of their education. At the same time, he warned, those prospective teachers who break the contract must be required to pay back the loan immediately.

“There have to be big carrots and big sticks, if you will,” Shields said. “Small carrots and small sticks won’t get you there–recruitment programs that haven’t worked well have tended to be those that offer little resources and are easy to slip out of.”

Nearly every state has reported a shortage in educators for the past decade–an issue many have been in part a result of the recession, during which teachers were laid off by the thousands and many would-be candidates turned away from the profession and entered paths toward higher paying, more stable careers.

In California, the number of teaching credentials issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing decreased by 45 percent across the state between 2004 and 2014. The commission reported, however, that enrollment increased 10 percent during the 2014-15 school year.

The increase has been largely attributed to a number of efforts put forth by lawmakers to recruit new educators, including a push for higher pay for educators, loan forgiveness programs, expedited credentialing options, housing benefits and easier pathways for out-of-state educators to earn California credentials.

Education experts who presented information to the budget subcommittee Tuesday noted that although the increase was welcome, it wasn’t enough to offset the years’ worth of decline.

Mary Sandy, executive director at the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said that the teacher preparation pipeline has been in decline for more than a decade, and that while enrollment in credentialing programs has been creeping up, that it is not yet keeping pace with demand.

And for those teachers who are already fully credentialed but may reportedly be laid off before the coming school year, the solution is not as simple as saying that those individuals will move to find work, Sandy said–especially not without strong incentives.

“We see that 1,500 teachers have been given layoff notices this year,” she said. “Let’s say a number of them are in the San Diego area–what does it take to get those teachers to move to Compton, or somewhere else in the state? It probably takes more than we’re willing to invest, because teachers are committed to their communities.”

Additionally, while the current shortage of educators largely remains an issue in special education, mathematics and science, a lack of bilingual teachers is likely to become a problem too, Sandy said.

Since voters repealed Proposition 227 last year, lawmakers and education officials have said they are expecting an increase in demand from schools for bilingual education–meaning a demand for bilingual educators as well.

“We are anticipating an uptick in demand for bilingual teachers, but it’s not beating down our doors yet the way the demand for special education, math and science is, but we expect that’s coming,” Sandy said. “Things are moving towards addressing the shortages that we have, and we are continuing to work on how to shore up preparation so that we have a smooth path into the profession.”