What are the Solutions to the Teacher Shortage Problem?

One of my last posts was dedicated to some of the more prominent causes of the teacher shortage, and now that the causes are understood, this post is dedicated to some of the solutions that have been put forth by lawmakers towards addressing this problem.

Lawmakers are attempting to curtail the problem of low teacher recruitment by offering financial incentives.  These include California Senate Bill 62, which seeks to aid teachers with “financial assistance to encourage them to complete postsecondary education programs leading to teaching credentials.” This aid would help qualifying teachers to pay their student debt, an factor which has been discouraging people from entering the profession.

School districts are also doing their part to lower the financial burden on teachers by providing affordable housing for their teachers.  One San Francisco school district official is quoted as saying that funding “has been earmarked for construction of up to 100 new apartments on surplus land owned by the San Francisco Unified School District. The units would be rented at below-market rates to the district’s 3,500 teachers and 1,600 classroom aides, who also would be eligible for new rental housing allowances and home down payment loans aimed at reducing living costs for another 300 educators.”  This is especially necessary since the cost of living in the San Francisco area is among the highest in the nation.  School districts realize that they need to take drastic measures in order to assure that the quality of their schools remains intact, and programs like this not only serve to stop the hemorrhaging of qualified teachers, they serve as attractors to young people who are potential teachers.

Although teaching is still not a lucrative profession, wages for teachers are back on the rise from their recession era lows. An article from the Fresno Bee states that “from 2009 to 2013, in the midst of government cutbacks and furloughs tied to the recession, average, inflation-adjusted teacher pay in California fell by about 5 percent. It rose slightly during the 2014 school year, and now sits about where it was in 2009.”  This is a good sign, although pay may be rising significantly in some districts, but not in others, because the same article goes on to say that “five school districts, most in the Bay Area, pay their teachers, on average, more than $100,000 – likely still not enough to afford to purchase a home in their communities. At least 10 school districts in rural areas pay their teachers, on average, less than $45,000 annually.”  This may have something to do with how education is funded, because a large chunk of the funding comes from local property taxes, which means that more affluent areas are likely to have the money to pay their teachers more, while poorer areas nearby will struggle to match those wages.

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School districts and lawmakers are able to address the financial problems faced in the education system, but the other problems tend to be a little more complicated.  An article from the Desert Sun quotes one Southern California Teachers’ Association President as saying “Good salary, health benefits, the workload- that all adds up to it- but if you were to treat teachers with respect, allow them to collaborate, leave them alone in their classroom to do what they love, they would do it for nothing.”  The public model of education may not be able to address these fundamental problems of respect and freedom in the teaching profession.  But what other models exist that can address these problems? This will be explored next when we talk about Charter Schools.

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