SACRAMENTO, Calif. — There are more than 280,000 fewer teachers now than at the start of the pandemic, that's according to the National Education Association.
Specifically, in our state, the California School Boards Association says about 100,000 teachers are in the classroom but there is still a teacher shortage being felt locally and nationwide.
ABC10 has previously covered how the landscape of teaching has changed over the years and what the classroom is like post the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below you'll find a conversation ABC10 had with two teachers in the Roseville Joint Union High School District and local experts about the retirement pool and how California is trying to improve recruitment.
For some school districts there just aren’t enough teachers to fill classrooms. Teacher shortages are nothing new, but the need is becoming a crisis.
One teacher says something different must be done to bring new people into the profession.
Kim Carroll and Dave Wallace both teach high school within the RCSD. They have decades of experience.
Climate of teaching in California
"Teaching in California right now is exhausting," Carroll, an AP Psychology teacher said. "Having that recognized, not necessarily trying to solve it, but just recognizing it is really will go a long way."
"There are so many different things that are pulling you in so many different directions," Wallace, a freshman English teacher said. "Whether it is issues with students or issues with society as a whole, they can really wear on you."
A look at the candidate/retirement pool
"I've heard more teachers who are in their 40s this year, saying that they've gone on to the CalSTRS website with the pension calculator and said, 'What would happen if I actually did retire this year, or next year'?' than I've ever heard before," said Wallace. "They're kind of joking, but they're also kind of not joking. If things get worse, they're looking for a way out, because they don't know if they can continue doing this for another 20 years. That's horrifying... I'll be retiring in not too much longer. They'll be the ones who are leading the school. Helping the new teachers acclimate. They can't go. That has me very concerned.
He went on to say, "If they're looking for a way out, that's kind of scary."
Diana Lambert, the senior education reporter at EdSource — an independent non-profit organization that focuses on education in California — explains the bigger picture.
"Just the fact that we have a large group of teachers retiring naturally. We had a big group of teachers and a certain age group are now retiring, then we had a 25% increase in retirements in 2020," Lambert said. "Because of COVID, it has leveled off, but it's impacted us greatly. Although we did have a slight uptick in teacher candidates graduating, it's not enough, just isn't enough... now we have other teachers retiring, leaving early, they're not counted in the retirement number. Leaving early because of bad behavior, lack of support for administration, in some cases, and just, you know, general feeling that people don't appreciate teachers."
"I'm seeing more (educators) considering things in education outside of teaching. More of them thinking, you know, I think I want to go to the county level, I think I want to go to the district level, I think I want out of the classroom. Not necessarily wanting to leave the profession of education altogether, but wanting to find ways to love what they do, but not do it in the classroom anymore. That makes me sad. I feel like there's some amazing teachers who have real connections with kids that are burning out."
With teachers retiring, recruiting new teachers is crucial. So how has California addressed the issue?
"They put $2 billion dollars in the last four years into teacher training, retention, and recruitment," said Lambert. "There's several new programs that are in place, residency programs, as well as just grow your own programs where districts will add, train their bus drivers, clerks, etc. People with bachelor's degrees generally (and) put them through a credential program that the state pays for."
"We've got to do something different," said Carroll. "If we're going to bring people into the profession."
Troy Flint, chief information officer with the California School Boards Association says more needs to be done at the state and federal levels.
"I do think that eventually when we treat this situation with the urgency, it deserves, that we'll be able to make a dent in the situation and eventually get back to sea level," Flint said. "But it's going to take a real concentrated effort of will to do that. We haven't seen that at the state or the federal level yet. There have been incremental programs grant programs, both at the state and at the federal level. We do appreciate that, but we need something much more monumental to equal the task. We need to look at things like scholarships for people who are entering the teacher profession, we need to look at debt forgiveness programs that really work, unlike the ones we have, which almost nobody can qualify for. You would have to dedicate half of your life to trying to navigate the system. We need to make the conditions better for teachers in school so the position looks more attractive. We need to increase compensation as well. This can't just happen at the local level, there needs to be a lot of support where there's more power, where there's more resources that's at the state and federal level to drive this."
"I would love for us to pay our student teachers," said Carroll. "They need to be paid. We're asking them to take on more student debt, to do an apprenticeship job that we're not paying them to apprentice, other professions, you get an apprentice wage. We're not doing that. We're like this is part of your schooling, and you can't work while you do it. So you're going to take on more debt in order to become a teacher, but if we paid them an apprenticeship wage, whether that comes from the state, whether that comes from the district, I don't know where that comes from or how that works. But I just feel like it says you're valuable. We want you in this profession, we're willing to pay you to apprentice."
"There are still lots of people who want to work with kids, and they love their subjects," said Wallace. "I get to teach some of the greatest books ever written. That's very fulfilling for me when I see a kid's eyes light up and really get into some of the works, that we're studying. And that's really powerful for me. But if you've never done the job, and you don't know what it's like to see that happen with a kid, then that may not be something necessarily that will pull you past all of those other barriers into the profession."
"I would just say that one of the first steps that we need to take as a nation, as a state, as local communities to addressing the teacher shortage is to restore respect to the profession of teaching, or maybe give it proper respect," Flint said. "That can take the form of increased compensation, it can take the form of improved working conditions, it can take the form of making it easier to enter the profession by removing the barriers in terms of debt or other hurdles to joining the profession."
"At the beginning of the year, I always read a letter to my students, and then I have them write a letter to me," Wallace said. "I've used the same quote for many years as part of that letter. It comes from King Lear by Shakespeare, and King Lear says, 'nothing comes of nothing'. I use that to talk to the kids about how if you can give me something, I can work with you. If you give me nothing, then it makes it that much harder."