California School Districts Report Teacher Shortages

California School Districts Report Teacher Shortages
Social distancing dividers for students in a classroom at St. Benedict School in Montebello, near Los Angeles, on July 14, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
Vanessa Serna

California is suffering from a teacher shortage and offering signing bonuses amid returning to in-person learning.

The state teacher shortage has been occurring for years, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic escalated the issue, as many school personnel retired or resigned.

“We are absolutely strained,” Hasmig Minassian, a ninth-grade teacher at Berkeley High School told The Associated Press. “This has been an incredibly stressful start to the year.”

Teachers at Berkeley High School are facing an early school-year burnout as the shortage results in the teachers filling in as substitutes where they usually wouldn’t have to.

“It doesn’t feel like there are enough adults on these campuses to keep kids really safe,” Minassian said. “You know the early videos of nurses crying in their cars? I kind of expect those to come out of teachers.”

Schools throughout the state are experiencing a need for teachers in the subjects of math, science, languages, and special education. Along with the need for teachers, schools are seeking tutors and aides to assist with student learning loss as a result of distance learning.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has over 500 teacher openings to fill for its 600,000 students. LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber told The Associated Press the vacancies are a fivefold increase from the previous years.

In Fresno Unified School District (FUSD), the staff shortage extends past teacher vacancies, as school officials are in search of substitutes.

FUSD spokesperson Nikki Henry said that only about 250 out of 1,000 substitutes are willing to work at the district with 70,000 students, according to The Associated Press.

There was a reported spike in students choosing to return home for remote learning as the Delta variant surged in the state. The enrollment rate for remote learning went from 450 to nearly 4,000 in FUSD.

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, told The Associated Press the statewide shortage causes concerns of hiring unqualified teachers, especially in low-income communities.

As school districts are attempting to fill the gaps, school districts Mount Diablo Unified, San Francisco Unified, and West Contra Costa County Unified are offering signing bonuses for speech pathologists, paraeducators, and teachers.

During the pandemic, school districts received billions of funds in federal and state relief funding, but the issue revolves around the lack of potential prospects.