An important story on the front page last week revealed some alarming statistics that should worry every resident in the state of California.
The number of college students pursuing careers in education is plunging.
Teacher credentials issued by the California State University system — the state’s largest supplier — are down a staggering 80 percent from 2000 to today, from 77,000 to 14,000. In the last five years, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the number of new teacher credentials issued in the state has fallen 26 percent.
Looking at that time period alone, that’s 5,222 fewer teachers entering the workforce in 2013-14 vs. 2009-10; and the falling numbers have a compounding effect.
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Had the totals merely remained steady at 2009-10 levels over those five years, we would have almost 35,000 more credentialed teachers fresh out of California universities, eager to teach our kids.
Do we need that many? Do we need 77,000 a year? Maybe not. But it’s clear we need more than we have now simply looking at San Luis Obispo County alone.
The Lucia Mar district hired almost 90 new credentialed teachers for this school year, and it still has six open positions.
Paso Robles has 13. That’s more than a dozen full classrooms without their own teachers, which means those kids are being divvied up among other educators, adding to their workload and increasing class sizes.
Nevertheless, despite those shortages, it appears we’re in a better situation than most.
“If you look at the state, it’s really rural areas and urban that are suffering,” Charles Fiorentino, Lucia Mar’s assistant superintendent of human resources, told Tribune reporter Kaytlyn Leslie. “We’re considered suburban, and we’ve, in general, not seen problems filling positions, beside the usual.”
That surely will change, however, if this trend line continues.
The county Office of Education is already expanding its outreach efforts to recruit and retain new teachers.
But what’s needed more is a wholesale turnaround in how we’ve allowed teaching to be devalued as a career — a foul trend that has clearly occurred in recent decades.
You may think they have a cushy job with summers off and government-level benefits, but I dare you to get up in front of 30 kids and keep them engaged day in and day out.
Back in the throes of the Great Recession, schools slashed budgets and handed out pink slips. Thankfully, today, more money is coming back, but will we have enough qualified people to hire for those jobs?
Teaching is among the most noble professions in a free society. Teachers — partnered with responsible parents — are the single-most powerful influence in building an informed citizenry.
At their most talented, they have the chance to inspire and effect change at the most basic level — one child at a time.
That’s the message we need to be promoting, not just in our schools, but throughout our cities and state, so that more youngsters will consider careers in education. All of our futures depend on it.