Schools in Berkeley district face teacher shortage

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Schools in Berkeley are facing an acute shortage of teachers due to rising housing prices and low teacher salaries, following a trend in California.

The California State University and UC systems are producing 60 percent fewer teachers than needed — meaning that for every 10 teachers needed, there are four available, according to California Teachers Association spokesperson Ed Sibby. The state has filled the gap for the 2015-16 school year by issuing more than 10,000 intern credentials, permits and waivers, which allow trainees and teachers to teach outside their areas of expertise — more than double the number issued for the 2012-13 school year, according to a recent Learning Policy Institute study.

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said that while the shortage has impacted school districts across California, the housing crisis in the Bay Area has increased the problem in Berkeley.

“We are affected differently,” Campbell said. “We live in an area with high cost of living, which saturates the problem.”

Sibby also attributed the teacher shortage to a lack of affordable housing, which forces some teachers to “travel 90 minutes to two hours to come into the city to teach.” California Teachers Association, or CTA, is committed to building more affordable housing and increasing teacher salaries to tackle this problem, Sibby said.

Sibby added that he believes the economic downturn of 2008 eliminated many teaching jobs, affecting younger teachers in particular. Those who could not retain their jobs and found success in other fields talked about disappointment in teaching jobs that discouraged others from pursuing a career in education, according to Sibby.

The state has issued both waivers to allow teachers trained in other subjects to teach outside their areas of expertise and temporary credentials to trainees. Cal Teach program director Elisa Stone said this is especially a problem in secondary math and science classes, which are often being taught by teachers who lack training in STEM subjects. Nearly 40 percent of math and science teachers lack full credentials statewide, according to the Learning Policy Institute study.

“This is a crucial concern, as our K-12 students in the state do not all have access to the quality science and math education they deserve. This is particularly the case in urban and rural schools,” Stone said in an email.

Cal Teach is focused on recruiting and preparing math and science majors for future teaching careers.

Stone said in an email that teachers are harmed by these practices as well. Teachers under temporary credentials are often paid less than those with full credentials and are let go from their jobs more frequently, according to Stone.

Sibby said a “significant” amount of work is being done to address the disincentive surrounding teaching jobs. He added that advocates of the profession are trying to communicate that “teaching is a great profession if you live in a diverse community.”

“As an institution, (CTA) believe(s) every student deserves highly qualified teachers in schools,” Sibby said. “We understand we need to minimize the issuance of preliminary credentials for folks who have not been trained in front of a classroom.”

Contact Azwar Shakeel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.

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  • Anybody But Jesse

    If there is a shortage in Berkeley, why are there so few job listings?

  • ConsumerSovereignty

    Math and science teachers are the most likely to have better paying options outside of teaching. We need to recognize that, and enact higher pay scales to attract and retain good math and science teachers. I imagine this won’t go over well with the teachers’ unions.

  • the solution is simple, get rid of rent control and build more housing. Not that the local nimbys would ever get it.

  • svendlarose

    We need fewer big houses on half an acre and more small apartments that a teacher can afford at market rate. We also need a huge increase in the housing supply, á la Tokyo, so that our population can find housing at the lower market-clearing rate.

    • Couple of questions:

      1. How far are you willing to degrade social fabric and living conditions in a failed attempt to regulate capitalism into housing everyone? In your answer, respond to the historic fact that capitalism has presented an unending housing crisis since at least the mid-19th century, varying only a bit in intensity.

      2. Gross income on new construction and rehabs around here shows a VAST rate of profit. You propose to marginally lower the cost of production of a unit which, presumably, will take an already vast rate of profit and make it a tiny bit higher. Why do you believe this tiny amount of extra profit will lead to a surge of production sufficient to house everyone at prices they can afford?

      • svendlarose

        I propose to rezone property to call for more units. I also propose to radically reduce the cost of permission to build.

        • You do not propose simply to “rezone” and “reduce the cost of the permission to build” but to socially engineer. For example, your idea as expressed is that we should lower our standards for a living unit so that the lower standard units can be used for teachers.

          In this trade-off between quality of life and the demands of real estate investors, how far are you willing to degrade the life of workers like teachers before you will instead try to resist the demands of investors?

          This is a funny thing to say:

          > I also propose to radically reduce the cost of permission to build.

          Will you show me some math about how much you plan to reduce that cost and what that amounts to, amortized over a few decades, in terms of lowering the price of a new unit?

          I think if you are at all realistic about that, you’ll discover that the maximum possible increase in affordability — that is, assuming an unlikely 100% pass-through of the savings — is still too small to make much difference.

          Unless, of course, you propose to degrade the living conditions of workers considerably — which it sounds like you favor.

          • lspanker

            You do not propose simply to “rezone” and “reduce the cost of the permission to build” but to socially engineer.

            And you’re outraged about that? I’s not like you lefties don’t ever do that…

    • what exactly are you suggesting? be clear about what you are speaking about and don’t speak in vague terms. If you are for deregulating building codes and rent control I am all for that but you seem to be suggesting something else.