Pink slips for k-12 teachers and classified staff have been issued in record numbers this year. School boards throughout the state, anticipating worst-case budget scenarios, delivered over 26,000 notices this past March. While some pink slip recipients will be re-hired, the shear number of pink slips issued will undoubtedly result in thousands of teachers being unemployed during the 2010-11 school year.
This, of course, is not good news. California has worked hard to recruit individuals to the teaching profession, and to train them to become “highly qualified” teachers. Over the years, many teacher recruitment and teacher support programs were developed as part of creating a pipeline into the teaching profession. Many young people, as well as career-changers, followed their dream to become teachers, and helped create a new teaching work force. Unluckily, these newer teachers will probably be the first to experience job layoffs.
The immediate effect of teacher layoffs on the classroom is fairly predicable. Class sizes will probably increase and course offerings will decrease. Extracurricular programs will be cut and student services drastically reduced. Teachers and support staff will be asked to take on even more responsibilities than they have had in the past.
The layoffs could also have a larger, more long-term impact on California’s K-12 education system. In 1997, predictions were made that California would need 300,000 teachers over the next 10 years, in order to replace retiring teachers and continue class size reduction. While great strides were made to reach that goal, since 2004, there has been a 30% decrease in enrollment in teacher preparation programs and a 25% decline in the number of teaching credentials issued. (Teacher Supply in California: A Report to the Legislature. Annual Report. 2007-2008, April 2009). Today, in the face of massive layoffs, individuals who were considering becoming teachers are now rethinking this career choice because of concerns for job security. This potential shift in career choices could exacerbate an already critical shortage issue. This does not bode well for California.
However, we can look at these same statistics in a different way and see some positive outcomes. The silver lining in this dark cloud is the fact that the vacancies created by retiring teachers and not filled by the current pipeline of students can be filled by individuals who have not yet entered the teacher preparation pipeline. Now is the time to encourage individuals considering a career in teaching to continue following this career pathway.
There is good news for these future teachers. There still are teacher recruitment and teacher support programs in place, including financial aid. Prospective teachers will find one particular program, TEACH California, particularly helpful. Administered by the Department of Education, TEACH California is the one-stop information center for prospective teachers that offers easy-to-understand explanations of credential requirements and pathways, maintains up-to-date searchable databases of teacher recruitment programs, teacher preparation programs, financial aid, and other useful resources. The Web site also provides other services, including an online registration function. Registered users can track their progress through the teaching career pathway they have chosen, keep their personalized list of resources, and receive email reminders of important information including test deadlines and credential changes.
TEACH California is invaluable for future teachers, and is also extremely useful to counselors, teachers and administrators. By providing accurate information about what it takes to teach, the Web site relieves counselors and teachers of the burden of staying abreast of the ever-changing requirements for obtaining a teaching credential. By just directing students to www.teachcalifornia.org, counselors, teachers, and administrators can be assured that their students will find what they need to know about the teaching profession. In a recent survey of teacher preparation students, several students commented that they wished that had been aware of the website earlier in their careers.
So, despite the pink slips issued this year, we know there will be teaching jobs in the future. We urge you to encourage your students to follow their dreams to become teachers. All you need to do is point them to TEACH California, at www.teachcalifornia.org.
As the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell recently stated,
“California has always attracted the most innovative and inspiring teachers. We must build on this tradition, and continue to recruit and retain teachers for the future. The state needs teachers.”