Educator Paulette Chaffee Comments on the Teacher Shortage in California Public Schools

Educator Paulette Chaffee details how the teacher shortage in California public schools only worsens education inequality while providing reasons for and solutions to the problem.

The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated a problem that already existed before March of 2020 -- a public teacher shortage throughout the state of California. As educator Paulette Chaffee explains, this shortage affects nearly every public school district in the state.

A recent Learning Policy Institute study found that 80% of all public school districts in California are being affected by some sort of teacher shortage. The districts that are being hurt the most by it are located in rural regions or communities of color.

Paulette Chaffee points out how the teacher shortage situation is only widening the gap in education equity that's been present in California schools since long before the pandemic.

As a long-time educator who has worked in public schools as a teacher and then as a speech therapist, Paulette Chaffee knows the importance of quality education for all students.

That's why the teacher shortage is such a concern. With the shortage disproportionately affecting areas already dealing with equity education challenges, it threatens to send them even further behind.

Staffing shortages are being felt not only with full-time teachers but with part-time substitutes, too.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is the agency responsible for providing licenses for all substitute and full-time teachers in the state. Just two years ago, the agency licensed 64,000 permits for substitute teachers. However, during the 2020-2021 school year, it only issued roughly 47,000. That's a drop of nearly 27%.

The problem, then, is not only that full-time teachers are out due to COVID-19 -- or have left the profession altogether; it's that there aren't nearly as many substitute teachers to fill in temporarily.

In underprivileged public school districts, this forces schools to potentially combine classrooms or have non-credentialed staff serving more as babysitters or study hall monitors than active educators.

This is no small problem, as Paulette Chaffee explains. California has roughly 10,000 public schools at both the secondary and elementary levels, and they serve approximately 6.5 million students. It's why the teacher shortage that's being caused by the combination of a high attrition rate plus not enough new teachers is so worrisome.

The blame can't be placed squarely on the pandemic, either. Teachers often face challenging working conditions, comparatively low wages, and low job security in California -- another reason why it's not as desirable a profession for students to pursue.

But, how can this be fixed? Paulette Chaffee says it will take a multi-pronged approach of providing incentives for people to study education while also improving working conditions and rates of pay.

In the short term, solving the education inequality that teacher shortages cause may take attracting teachers from out of state.

No matter how the problem is ultimately solved, California representatives, education agencies, and the community must address the issues now before it's too late.

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Release ID: 89062723