Reasons for the Current Teacher Shortage

America has a teacher shortage problem, and there’s plenty of blame to go around, especially since the Obama administration took over and the federal government doubled-down on its education policies. Just think how things stand right now with such glaring issues as tight budgets, relentless standardized testing, performance-based teacher evaluations, hastily designed and implemented Common Core Standards, exploding poverty numbers, turn-around school mandates, charter school growth, and tenure in the short hairs, right there along with teachers’ pay.

Even current Secretary of Education John B. King waxed somewhat apologetically by suggesting that, “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students.”

Indeed…

Stockton University’s dean of education put it more bluntly by contending that it’s the result of “terribly horrible, negative rhetoric we’re hearing from public officials.”

Similarly, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, recently declared that, along with everything else that’s going against them, “Teachers have also been subjected to demonization.”

The result: A MetLife survey finds that teacher satisfaction is at its lowest level in 25 years, which comes as no surprise to Dulce-Marie Flecha who is quitting after five years in the classroom.

When asked why, she said, “I’m trying to think of a good summarizing reason, but, honestly, there are more reasons to leave than there are to stay in education right now. At a certain point, you kind of have to pay for your own sanity, you know?” She then added, “There’s this sort of unsaid expectation that teachers should be happy to give up so much time and money out of love for children… I don’t think anybody told me I was going to cry under my desk.”

And so it goes…

Another effect is that fewer college students are opting for careers in education. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, their numbers slipped from 106,300 in 2004 to just 98,900 in 2014.

In Pennsylvania alone, Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Kathy Boccella reports that in 2009 the commonwealth’s fourteen universities boasted 18,287 undergraduates majoring in education; by 2015, however, that figure stood at a mere 11,583. Moreover, while they awarded 18,590 teaching certificates in 2013; in 2015, only 7,180 were handed out-a 61% decrease!

As Temple University’s Gregory Anderson, dean of the College of Education, points out, “If I’m an undergraduate student, teaching as a profession is not necessarily one shining with possibilities.”

Piling on, there’s also the sticky issue of salaries, albeit a secondary one in light of concerning working conditions, lack of administrative support, too little policy input, and loosening discipline policies.

As the Economic Policy Institute has udiscovered, the gap between U.S. teachers’ pay and other professionals is “greater than ever.” In fact, for all public school teachers–irrespective of age, gender, or experience–the relative wage gap hit a record 17% last year, with teachers in just five states coming within 10% of what other college grads earn.

That’s because, according to a 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis, median pay for high school teachers came in at just $53,515, while their elementary colleagues made $54,120. Contrast those figures with the median salaries of such professionals as:

  • Financial managers: $126,700
  • Pharmacists: $116,500
  • Human Resources Manager: $$111,200
  • Mathematician: $103.3
  • Political Scientist: $100.9
  • Art Director: $96,700
  • Civil Engineer: $85,600
  • Real Estate Broker: $82,400
  • Physical Therapist:$82.2
  • Computer Programmer: $80,900
  • Sociologist: $78,100
  • Accountants & Auditors: $72,500:

Consequently, a number of states are resorting to rather desperate measures to attract and/or hold on to teachers. For instance, in light of Utah’s low teacher pay, the state board of education recently removed all requirements for new hires other than a college degree and a passing subject matter test score. That’s it.

Then there are states like Virginia which is offering bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 to lure new teachers. At the same time, California now says that teachers holding certification with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards can receive a $20,000 bonus if they’ll agree to work in a high priority (meaning hard to staff) school for four years.

Stay tuned.