LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A teacher shortage in the state of California has some lawmakers sounding the alarm.
Hardest hit by the shortage is Northern California, but many experts believe the decreasing numbers of newly graduated teachers with certification is a problem that may grow into a statewide crisis.
For one thing, many teachers aren't happy.
"Teaching is a very powerful job and we aren't appreciated the way that we should be," said Linh Dang, a public school teacher, who is leaving her job as a San Francisco teacher after just two years.
And while some teachers are leaving, there aren't as many new teachers to replace them.
The California Commission on Teaching Credentialing found enrollment in teacher-preparation programs dropped 74 percent from 2003 to 2012.
Some school districts in California are already having trouble finding enough teachers with certification to cover all the classes.
"In the past few years, the job satisfaction rate has plummeted," said Kevin Kumashiro, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education.
"I think it's going to be a huge crisis," State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Calabasas). Pavley says a huge part of the problem for new teachers is the money as many have student loans.
"You start raking up those student loans of $40- or $50,000 after several years of education, any smart tax attorney will tell you, 'You cannot afford to be a teacher. ' You cannot pay off $1,000
in student loan debt and go into the classroom," she said.
The teacher shortages are most dramatic in special education, science, and math. Bilingual teachers are in short supply in some districts as well.
As a result, some districts have resorted to hiring recent graduates, who are still trying to get their certification to work as full-time teachers.
"Think about it: you're a college graduate. You specialized in mathematics or computer programming and your options are to go be a teacher or go work for a tech company making potentially, significantly more money," Melissa Caen, a political analyst, said.
Sen. Pavley says the answer is to give economic incentives to new teachers coming into the profession and this year, for the third time, she tried to pass a bill to do that.
"Essentially what it says is: we will forgive your student loan over a period of four to five years providing you have committed to a classroom or a school for that period of time," she said.
Pavley's bill passed the state Senate but was stopped in the Assembly for lack of funding for the program in this year's state budget. As a result, she put the bill on hold, hoping funding for the program can be included in next year's budget.
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