National teachers shortage affecting students throughout the nation

Teacher salaries

Teacher salaries

Imani Fields

Kent State education majors will have a great chance of being employed after graduation. However, with the national teacher shortage, students graduating are leaving the education fields.

More than 50 percent of colleges, universities and school districts have shortages, according to The American Association for Employment in Education. 

Julie Novotny, a career adviser at the university, describes the teacher shortage as an imbalanced ratio of students to teachers.

“It’s really specific to a geographic area and the content areas, so it is not an overall shortage,” Novotny said. 

The national shortage has caused a high demand for educators in subjects like sciences, math, special education and foreign language. Novotny mentioned these shortages are affecting Ohio as well. 

Reports from the National Council on Teacher Quality show that the shortage began in 2011 during the time of the recession. As a result, to help preserve funding, class sizes were increasing, employee pay was reducing, schools were conducting layoffs and, in the worse case, schools were closing.

The American Association for Employment in Education reports that the national composite score of 3.47 is the highest since the 3.54 score in 2008, right before the Great Recession. 

The Northeast and Midwest are not as affected currently, but there is still a need for minority teachers in inner-city school districts, as well as a need for teachers and substitutes in the high-demand subjects all over the nation, Novotny said.

“High-poverty schools are often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes,” said a headline for the Washington Post. Learning Policy Institute studies show half of all schools and 90 percent of high-poverty schools are struggling to find qualified special education teachers.

“One of the reasons for the shortage is a decrease in students enrolling into education programs,” Novotny said. “Also, there’s a lot of teachers leaving before retirement.”

Enrollment rates at institutions for educational studies have also decreased tremendously. This year at Kent State, only 585 seniors will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in the educational studies.

Nationwide enrollment rates have dropped 35 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to the Learning Policy Institute’s most recent reports. 

Low compensation, poor preparation and poor teaching conditions also attribute to the high turnover rates, according to reports from the Learning Policy Institute.

Low Compensation

Ohio has some of the top school districts in the country, although research shows the pay is less than average. On average, teachers make about $36,000 in the U.S.; however, in Ohio, the pay starts around $33,000.

“Education is an extremely stressful major,” said Palai Yang, a junior early childhood education major at Kent State. “I used to be a nursing major, and it’s the same amount of stress, but almost half the pay.

“It doesn’t make any sense because we work just as hard. Teachers should be paid more.” 

In more than 30 states, mid-career teachers with families of four or more qualify for three or more public benefit programs, such as subsidized children’s health insurance or free or reduced-price school meals, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

“A lot of the teachers in West Virginia that were on strike were on welfare and taking food stamps,” Novotny said.

Poor Preparation

Teachers with little or no preparation are more than twice as likely to leave teaching as those who are fully prepared. Research from the Learning Policy Institute shows candidates “can’t afford adequate preparation — especially when they may have had to go into debt to prepare to enter a profession that earns less than others.”

Novotny cited a study done by the National Center of Education that said about one-fifth of new teachers leave after one year, and almost half leave before five years.

Currently, there are not enough qualified teachers applying for teaching jobs to meet the demand in all locations and fields, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

Research from the report also shows an estimate that the shortage during the 2015–16 school year was approximately 60,000 teachers.

“This is the rough number of positions that were not filled at all or were filled by people not qualified for that teaching assignment,” the report said. 

Poor Teaching Conditions

“The licensing laws are not what are driving the people out of education,” Novotny said. “Funding is what the main issue is. Think of the people in Oklahoma; their textbooks still say Bill Clinton is president.

“That’s why teachers are on strike now because of funding.”

“Fifty-five percent reported areas of dissatisfaction as important reasons for leaving. These range from teaching conditions, such as class sizes and salaries, to unhappiness with administrative practices (such as lack of support, classroom autonomy, or input on decisions) to policy issues, such as the effects of testing and accountability,” according to reports by the Learning Policy Institute.

“It almost makes you not want to be a teacher,” said Frances Roberts, a freshman human development and family studies major. “It makes me want to start over and choose a new career field.” 

The Learning Policy Institute mentions some solutions, including improving teacher retention, creating competitive compensation packages, enhancing the supply of qualified teachers in high-need fields and developing a supply market that can facilitate putting teachers in places that need it. 

What is being done?

Novotny said schools had started to adopt a method of “alternative tracks” that could include hiring teachers while they are still completing their licenses.

“Due to the shortage and low enrollment rates, schools have started to incentivize and provide alternative tracks to licensure,” Novotny said. “Some incentives include compensation for moving and doubling salaries in certain areas.”

Novotny said teachers entering the profession today need a passion for teaching as much as they do a college education.

“I think, right now, we’re looking at the turning point,” Novotny said. “I would never tell anyone not to go into education, but it is something you have to be passionate about, or else you could become a statistic.”

Imani Fields is a jobs reporter. Contact her at [email protected].