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SchoolWatch: Where Have All The Teachers Gone?


Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

California is in the midst of a teacher shortage that is getting worse each year.  Many more teachers are leaving the profession than are entering it.  One-third of all 300,000 public school teachers in California are nearing retirement.  Making matters worse, enrollment in teacher training programs is way down; only 5 percent of college-bound students want to become educators.  And nearly half of those who do become teachers leave the profession within five years — usually frustrated with working conditions and low salaries.

Origins of the Teacher Shortage

The Great Recession, which began in 2007, led to deep and damaging cuts in education budgets.  Thousands of teachers and staff were laid off, including scores of teachers right here in Irvine.  Across the State, the cuts put a chill on personal decisions that college students were making about whether to enter the education field.  College students figured that if they were going to incur tens of thousands of dollars of debt for a higher education, they needed to work in a profession with job security and a big enough salary to be able to pay off college loans.

Working Conditions

Let’s face it:  Over the past 10 years, in many ways teaching has simply become unattractive.  Salaries of teachers stayed frozen for years.  Classroom sizes continued to grow.  High-stakes testing of students — required by federal and state law — led to “teaching to the test” and teacher-student evaluations that are often based on one-dimensional test scores.  For years now, the idealism and creativity that we associate with outstanding teachers have gone unrewarded.  On the contrary, small-minded politicians repeatedly bash our public schools, making the false, unsupported claim that “our public schools are failing.”  Then, they blame the “failure” on teachers’ unions and the teachers themselves.

So, is it any wonder that across California veteran teachers are leaving the profession, and that it’s getting harder and harder to recruit and retain good teachers?  Irvine is not exempt from this troubling dynamic.  In fact, nearby school districts that are desperate for highly qualified teachers have begun to offer financial incentives to woo Irvine teachers to their schools.

NEXT TIME, Part 2:  Strategies to Meet the Teacher Shortage and Retain Excellence in Irvine Schools.

Carolyn Inmon


Irvine, CA
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