As we pass a year into the pandemic, local leaders, families, and state policymakers focus on increasing in-person safety and addressing learning gaps safely.
An area in which I have conducted research and written for several years is the current and pending shortages of qualified education employees. Traditional education employee shortages are most evident in high-need fields and high-need schools. According to the Palo Alto Learning Policy Institute, these shortages are growing across the state due to a range of pandemic-related factors, including increased early retirements and resignations and a reduced pipeline of incoming teachers.
When employers recruit and retain well-prepared employees, job performance, retention, and success in practice increase. As employee shortages in California worsen, many school districts are struggling to fill positions. The Central Coast has consistently enjoyed an adequate applicant pool. However, specialty positions such as teachers of children with disabilities, English Language Learners, and the hard sciences continue to present challenges. According to recent data, many school districts throughout the state are experiencing significant shortages of qualified teachers in these specialty areas.
Three years ago, I presented a report to the state legislature based on research and proposed several strategies working across the state. Our study indicated that more than 80 percent of the districts reported staff deficits have grown worse in the past few years.
Communities “are experiencing alarming rates of employee vacancies,” one administrator said. “A highly competent teacher workforce is a necessary foundation for improving children’s educational outcomes, especially for those who rely on schools for their success.” In our 2018 research study, Dr. James Gentilucci, Professor Emeritus at Cal Poly, identified many communities throughout California that implemented successful local solutions to recruit and retain qualified educators.
“Of all the hard jobs around, one of the hardest is being a good teacher.“Maggie Gallagher
Many of these local solutions materialized as a grant or scholarship opportunity for individuals pursuing education as a career. Local Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham and local State Senator John Laird support homegrown efforts and continue to champion local solutions in our state legislature. Through the Local Solutions Grant, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education offers scholarships to individuals seeking a teaching credential serving children with special needs. Contact our office or go to slocoe.org for additional information. We must maintain the emphasis on recruitment and retention at all levels of government.
Legislative leaders are in conversations with Governor Newsom about next year’s budget and the challenges education faces because of pension costs, early childhood needs, special education costs, increased safety, and the aftermath of COVID.
My office anticipates a need for 50-75 new teachers annually in San Luis Obispo County.
This figure could climb if additional retirement occurs because of COVID. Cuesta College is exploring pathways for aspiring educators in coordination with my office as a long-term sustainable solution. Local and state efforts continue to present possible paths for additional homegrown courses of action.
We anticipate that the Commission on Teacher Credentialing will again provide funding for non-teaching school employees to become teachers through a competitive grant process, and we intend to notify the community if this materializes. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education was successful in our grant application and will again participate in the grant program. These grants, along with our apprenticeship grants, reflect the high level of dedication and talent our local schools and districts enjoy. I hope that some of the bright, talented, and caring individuals residing on the Central Coast consider serving as educators, support staff, and administrators in schools, preparing our future citizens. It is an honor to serve as your county superintendent of schools.