California: Who will teach our children?

December 14, 2010

During the last seven years, the number of Californians becoming teachers has dropped 45 percent, even as student enrollments are expected to rise by 230,000 over the next decade and another 100,000 teachers are expected to retire. [California Watch]

Teaching, according to state experts, is becoming less and less of a desirable profession. One report indicates that the number of college students enrolled in teacher preparation programs declined from 77, 705 in 2001-02 to 42,245 in 2008-09.

“The report puts its finger on a more urgent problem than the need to push out the very small number of teachers who are not as good as we would like them to be, and that is where we are going to get the best quality teachers in our schools that we will need in the future,” said Richard Zeiger, chief of staff to incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Multiple reasons are being given for the teacher shortage. Budget cuts to the California State University system, which awards half of all teacher credentials in the state,  has had to cap enrollments in teacher training programs.

Also to blame: Horrendous “market forces” that have led to 30,000 teachers being laid off in California over the last two years alone, with novice teachers being the most likely to have gotten their walking papers.

Don’t forget budget cuts. Teachers are expected to do more with less, typically teaching in larger classes, with fewer counseling and other staff to help out with hard-to-teach children. All this comes on top of reductions in salaries and benefits in the form of unpaid furlough days, increased health care premiums, and other cost-saving measures.

Experts worry that local school districts will respond to the crisis by raising class size.

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The argument made by srichison is born out by the facts.

Teacher pay – San Luis Unified

Lowest – $40,685

BA + 60 education credits = $60,770

Highest = $85,490

Average = $69,713

Teacher pay – statewide average

Lowest = $40,332

BA + 60 = $62,602

Highest = $80,902

Average = $66,642

I would love to give an exact amount for the portion of expenditures that go to administrative costs, but it appears that the state of California includes administrative costs in the category for expenditures on Instruction.

Sending our tax dollars to Washington DC and Sacramento, paying a bureaucratic overhead fee of 30-60%, and then receiving those funds back is not a wise use of our education dollars. The state and fed should set policies, guidelines, and standards. Implementation of those policies, guidelines, and standards should be done at the county and district levels. Fat Cat Bureaucrats sitting in capitals does our children absolutely no good.

Another symptom of the problem has shown itself with the current budget cut backs. SLO county office of education has reduced its staff by 2/3 in the last 3 years; yet the number of administrators has remained constant. Looks to me like they should get rid of 90% of the administrators and pay remaining staff a premium to assume part of the admin duties.

Lastly, why have we built a system whereby our schools and teachers have to ‘spend it or lose it’? You should see the shopping spree that takes place at the end of every school year. They have to spend those education $$ this year, or their budgets will be cut next year. Um…why don’t we make staff and administrators perform as responsible and frugal trustee’s of our public funds? If a school district wants to squirrel away funds for a rainy day (such as we are now experiencing), why not let them so that delivery of services to our children remain much more consistent and even? If we can’t trust them with our tax money, we certainly should not be trusting them with our children.