A new statewide partnership to support California’s teacher recruitment efforts was announced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond in a Jan. 26 virtual event that featured California education leaders including CSBA Immediate Past President Dr. Susan Heredia.
The California Department of Education will partner with California Volunteers — a statewide volunteer corps that helps with the state’s response to emergencies and disasters — to promote new pathways for the 10,000 service corps members to become teachers in classrooms throughout the state.
“While the California Department of Education doesn’t traditionally work on recruitment, we want to do more to partner with our [local educational agencies],” Thurmond said. “As we put on these career fairs, we’re making an invitation to school districts to join us so that you can recruit directly. We now have the opportunity to recruit from a pool of 10,000 people not just this year, but every year — 3,000 of whom are already working in a school as a tutor or a mentor.”
Career events hosted in partnership with California Volunteers will connect teacher candidates with schools experiencing shortages and provide prospective applicants with information on how to access scholarships and grants. In addition, a new email and hotline will help prospective teacher candidates reach an expert at the CDE who can help them navigate the process of becoming a teacher.
Thurmond said there will be other recruitment fairs and events for those who want to become teachers or non-teaching school staff, and anyone interested can call the new hotline at 916-322-3051 or email TeachInCA@cde.ca.gov.
The CDE will also be launching an upcoming public service announcement campaign to support teacher recruitment in California — an undertaking that Heredia said is sorely needed to reframe the public perception of teaching as a career path.
As a school board member at Natomas Unified School District and professor of Education, Emerita at California State University, Sacramento, she said she understands the challenges posed by the teacher shortage through several lenses.
“I’m excited to hear about all the different campaigns that are being proposed or are already in place — I think that’s a great place to start,” said Heredia, who also serves on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. She called on state education leaders to advocate a strong legislative agenda that promotes streamlining the credentialing process, increasing pay and more.
Preparing new educators is only one aspect of addressing the educator shortage, Heredia explained. Finding ways to “keep them in the profession” given the salary, which isn’t commensurate with other degree-holding employees in other sectors, and other difficulties teachers face is another.
Data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics in December 2022 showed that schools across the country continue to face challenges related to teacher vacancies — particularly in low-income areas serving more minority students.
As of October 2022, 18 percent of public schools had one teaching vacancy and 27 percent had multiple teaching vacancies, with the average school reporting two vacant teaching positions. Overall, 4 percent of all public school teaching positions across the country were vacant.
However, in high-poverty neighborhood schools, 57 percent reported at least one teaching vacancy, compared to 41 percent of public schools in low-poverty neighborhoods, and 60 percent of schools with a high-minority student body (greater than 75 percent minority) had at least one teaching vacancy, compared to 32 percent of schools with a low-minority student body (25 percent or less minority).
Similar trends are playing out in California, according to an August 2022 EdSource survey. Even within the same district, some schools — particularly those in wealthier neighborhoods — were found to experience less teacher turnover and were more likely to start the school year with a full staff, while districts serving large numbers of high-needs students reported more severe teacher shortages at the beginning of the year, leaving students with substitutes, administrators or teachers during prep periods to fill in until the district could hire more staff.
Many of the efforts to improve recruitment and retention will take time, but the state is also considering short-term solutions. Thurmond noted that his office is working with the Legislature to provide a waiver so retired teachers who are back in the classroom as substitutes or full-time teachers can continue to teach without penalty.
CSBA continues to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to renew state pension system exemptions for retirees who return to the classroom for the 2023–24 school year, ensuring that more students are in classrooms headed by experienced educators.