Back to School — But Where is the Teacher?

By Margaret Daoud-Gray

Meeting your teacher on the first day should be a given for our students. This year, too many students will enter their classroom with rotating substitute teachers or instructors on emergency credentials. This will be more common in low-income school districts, STEM fields, and special education classes. Last year, approximately 75% of school districts reported a shortage of qualified teachers. As of August 11th, 2017, the districts of San Francisco Unified, Oakland Unified, and Franklin-McKinley reported 61, 50, and 31 open positions respectively. This is because the current supply of teachers in California is at a 12-year low.

At the Silicon Valley Leadership Education Policy Summit on August 10th, we heard from experts throughout the day about the importance of recruiting and retaining strong teachers. Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade launched the conference with a compelling discussion around educational equity, emphasizing that teacher quality is the most important factor in student achievement. Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck, two candidates for State Superintendent of Schools, agreed that the shortage must be addressed through short-term and long-term efforts. Silicon Valley districts face additional challenges due to housing costs that are prohibitive on a teacher’s salary. Stephen McMahon, Deputy Superintendent of San Jose Unified School District, recognized that staff turnover is driven by teachers moving to work in more affordable regions.

The legislature clearly understands the urgency in addressing the shortage and introduced a number of bills to fund teacher recruitment and training. However, Governor Brown’s budget proposal included limited funding; ultimately, the state appropriated $30 million and redirected $11 million federal Title II dollars towards teacher recruitment and training.

Expect Legislators to push for further funding to address the shortage in 2018, and for the shortage to receive more attention through campaigns for both State Superintendent and Governor. Every student deserves to start school with an effective teacher greeting them at the door on the first day of school and the state must act to address this growing problem.

Margaret Daoud-Gray is Director of Education Policy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group