The Looming Teacher Shortage

And how NOT to correct it

The looming teacher shortage isn’t exactly looming… it’s here. Per The Charleston (SC) Business Journal, “The Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention & Advancement, South Carolina’s teacher recruitment program, said in its annual Teacher Supply Study that approximately 6,400 teachers across the Palmetto State left their positions at the end of the 2015-16 school year — 1,600 of them left for another district, but at least 330 left the profession completely and 1,400 cited personal reasons for leaving or did not give a reason. 

That’s just South Carolina, a nice place to live, by the way.

Let’s look at Hawaii. Under swaying palms, teachers are extremely underpaid while the cost of living is probably the highest in the nation as even the nearest package of Twizzlers is 3500 miles across the ocean, should the candy counter run out. 

And beautiful as it is, most people don’t want to move to rural Hawaii because the nearest mall is on Venus. You can’t switch districts for higher pay since its all one district. It’s a crisis in Paradise. Personally, I think they should market to retired Upstate NY and all New England teachers who will still get their pensions, will also get a Hawaii salary and get as far away from Winter as humanly possible. You can listen to my show on the Hawaii teacher shortage which is in crisis mode here.

We could go state by state, but we won’t. Enrollment in teacher education is also way down, particularly in Math and Science education as I guess most young people would rather start at $90 grand a year as a scientist then take 15 years to work up to that on the teacher pay scale, if it even goes that high. How’s the starting pay scale where you are compared to other professions?

And, if you ask around to people outside education, most have no idea this is happening while most Superintendents, particularly rural ones, are pulling what’s left of their hair out. I did a show with a very small district in Western North Dakota where they still have to educate their kids and they’ve been looking for an English teacher for at least a year. I do shows with The National Rural Education Association and other voices in rural education and they’re even having trouble growing their own teachers because the kids grow up and want to be around more economic opportunity in more adventuresome places. A wonderful place with loyal and excellent educators is Hazard, in Perry County KY which doesn’t have a 4-year college anywhere close… and the old song, “How ya gonna keep em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” holds. Go to college somewhere else and suddenly the world is a much bigger place. Where are they going to get the educators they need for Perry County kids in the future? You can listen to that show here.

So, let’s add insult to injury. Though I hate getting political on my show or columns, I am appalled by House Republicans who passed this -  which further dis-incentivizes people from entering the profession. This is from the NY Times 11/26/17 (Note: There is currently a $250 tax deduction to offset some of that out-of-pocket spending for teachers):

For 15 years, the nation’s tax code has recognized teachers… with a small perk that has now come to illustrate a larger philosophical divide as Congress tries to push through a sweeping tax overhaul.

The House tax bill, approved this month along party lines, would eliminate the teacher spending deduction in its effort to clean up the tax code, close loopholes and secure bigger tax cuts for all. The Senate bill, which could come up for a vote in the coming days, would double it, to $500. “The deduction is a small token of appreciation for teachers who make financial sacrifices to benefit their students,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine ( my senator FYI) who wrote the law that created the educator tax credit in 2002 and now wants to expand it.

The deduction — which reduces taxable income, rather than providing a dollar-for-dollar credit in a tax bill — does not yield a large return for its recipients. The most a teacher could recoup is $100, and most see a return of about $40, a small fraction of the $500 to $600 that surveys have estimated teachers spend a year. But for the more than three million teachers who claim the deduction, it’s still money.”

I’m writing this before the vote in the Senate and certainly before it becomes law, but the arrogance of The House nauseates me. Besides the Post Office (which actually is privatized), Education is the only thing we do in this country that affects every single family in every state every day. 

On my podcast, I deal with all the educational associations who annually march up Capitol Hill to explain their particular interest to their representatives in Congress. They get a lot of head shaking, up and down rather than right to left, but as you can see from what the House has proposed and what the Senate might pass, the up and down headshake was obviously their never-ending answer to the question, “Another Guinness, Congressman?”

Who, in their nuttiest, would go after teachers like this, single out this underpaid group of professionals out as they use their own money to buy professional supplies for the kids they teach; those kids being the children of constituents of the very same people who are trying to knock off the deduction as a shortage is not just looming ... it’s here.

So back to the nitty-gritty of this article, who in heck would become a teacher these days? Even teachers who love teaching would probably not tell their own children to become educators in this environment whether the bill passes or not, because, regardless of its passage, it betrays an attitude. And that attitude, from the mouths of people who profess to be really interested in education during campaigns, is two-faced and disgusting!

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