It should not come as a surprise that a shortage of good teachers, if not already here, is just over the horizon.
Exhibit A is the fact that from 2009-10 through 2013-14, the numbers of students admitted to colleges of education in Alabama dropped 3,547. From 7,802 in 2009 to 4,255 in 2013.
Superintendents deal with this situation almost daily. Chuck Marcum is superintendent for the Roanoke city system and believes the decline of college students deciding on education as a career is the biggest threat education faces.
Last summer Andalusia city system superintendent Ted Watson ran out of elementary teacher applicants for the first time in his career. At the end of the 2014-15 school year, he had eight teachers with 255 years experience retire.
Resignations are also quite an issue. For example, in the last four years the Butler County system lost 107 teachers. About twice as many resigned as retired. Mobile County is the largest system in Alabama. They had 376 retirements and resignations last year.
The issue of resignations is not new. For years, about one-half of all new teachers are gone by the end of five years. Reasons abound. A teacher has their first child, a spouse is relocated by their job and many just realize a teacher’s life is not for them.
“I certainly believe the political climate we now have is impacting us a lot,” one superintendent told me. “You can’t demonize teachers and schools like we’re doing without having a huge impact on the profession.”
These words ring true in light of a recent survey of more than 700 teachers in an Alabama school system who said that only eight percent of elected officials in the state value what they do.
And who can blame them? The legislature passes the Alabama Accountability Act that allows money destined for public education to be used for scholarships to send students to private schools that do not have be accredited, we pass a bill to have charter schools and says teachers in them do not have to be certified and the governor appoints someone to the state board of education who worked to stop his local school system from having the money they need to build new facilities.
The irony is that these same political leaders are the ones shouting loudest that we need better teachers at the same time their actions discourage young people from going into education.