Teacher shortage: What some SoCal districts are facing as new school year starts

Experts say low pay, increasing cost of living and the pandemic are some reasons for the shortage of teachers across the country.

ByDavid Gonzalez via KABC logo
Friday, August 12, 2022
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Experts say low pay, increasing cost of living, retirement and the pandemic are all reasons for the shortage of teachers across the country. As a result, some districts have had to hire underprepared or under-qualified teachers to fill the need.

Summer has started to wrap up for many students and teachers across the country as they get ready for the start of a new school year. But for some districts, the demand for teachers is surpassing the availability.

Brightwood Elementary School is part of Alhambra Unified School District and saw students return on Tuesday. Brightwood principal Candance Griego said teacher positions at her school are filled but there are vacancies in other areas like classified noon duties.

"Those are the adults on campus that supervise students so there has been difficulty with hiring those positions. We also have quite a shortage in the food and nutrition services department."

James Sanders, CEO of Scoot Education, an educational staffing company said, there's a nationwide shortage of teachers and support staff.

Sanders said pay is one of the main reasons teachers are leaving the business.

"Cost of living is going up significantly. The cost of becoming a teacher is increasing. Meanwhile, teacher income is pretty stagnant," Sanders said.

An April 2022 report by the Learning Policy Institute put California at rank number three in terms of the average annual starting salary for teachers. But after adjusting for cost of living, the state dropped to number 14.

Sanders also said retirement and the pandemic have also played big roles in staffing shortages.

According to a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, eight out of 12 participating districts in California saw an increased number of vacancies over pre-COVID years and experienced greater challenges in filling these positions.

Half of participating districts still had to fill 10% or more of their total vacancies, and one district still had more than a quarter of its vacancies to fill. The report did not name the districts.

Because of the shortage, some districts have had to hire under-qualified or underprepared teachers. When districts can't find a credentialed teacher, waivers are the final option.

Officials issued 929 waivers in the 2020-21 school year, more than double the numbers for the previous four years, according to data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Graph not displaying correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

As a result of these waivers, along with other types of emergency permits, new data from the California Department of Education shows that nearly one in five teachers statewide are teaching classes they aren't credentialed for.

Below, see a map of the state's data on teacher credentials by county, and a table by district.

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Table not displaying correctly? Click here to open in a new window.

Not all districts are struggling to fill vacancies.

In the Arcadia Unified School District new educators were treated to a rally to build excitement ahead of the first day of school.

The district ranks among one of the best places to teach in Los Angeles County according to Niche.com, a school ranking and review site.

Dr. Kevin Hryciw, assistant superintendent of human resources for Arcadia USD said, "We've been able to fill every single certificated position for this new school year. We're also on board and slated to have all of our classified positions filled for the start of the school year."

LA County Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo said they are affected by the teacher shortage but are adapting as best they can.

Dr. Duardo said the district is working to address the issue and is looking at new ways to attract people to the profession.

She said, "There's a lot of things that we're doing to try to recruit new teachers but it's also about retaining the teachers that we have."

Grace Manthey contributed to this report.