As students have made their way back to the classroom and met their new teachers this school year, Kern County faces an important issue — its lack of teachers. As many states and communities across the United States face a teacher shortage, some Kern County school district officials gave their opinions.
Some states in the country have taken many measures to combat this ongoing problem. For instance, California’s neighboring state, Arizona, has recently removed its requirement of holding a bachelor’s degree in order to become an educator in the state. This paves the way for undergraduate students yet to have graduated college, to be able to fully teach in the classroom.
California allocated $25 million in grant funding back in 2017, in order to assist school staff to become teachers, in the hope of getting more teachers into classrooms. However, how are current local school districts dealing with the shortage years later?
When looking at what some school officials in Kern County have said regarding the teacher shortage, we hear similar stories.
Kern Sol News was able to interview Kelly Richers, Superintendent of Wasco Union Elementary School District, who shared his thoughts about the current issue. When asked what some of the hardest teaching positions were to fill, Richers responded that positions involving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and special education are some of the most challenging to get teachers hired.
“You always have a shortage of special education teachers…not just everybody can just go out and teach it,” Richers said.
Richers also gave his opinion about the shortage of teachers for STEM-based classes in California, and how the deficiency may have originated.
“If you get a degree in either math or science, in most instances you can get a start industry 20% higher than you can in teaching,” stated Richers. “The state wants teachers to have both a math and science credential to teach [STEM] and if you have both a math and science credential, you can get a job just about anywhere you want to.”
Richers continued by saying: “There’s a breaking point for everybody, teachers aren’t staying in the profession…prospective teachers aren’t going into the profession and so you got a major problem…and now we have about a 45,000-teacher shortage in California and it’s not going to get better.’’
April Gregerson, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Programs at Delano Union Elementary School District (DUESD), echoed similar statements when questioned as well.
When asked about how the shortage affects STEM-based teaching positions, Gregerson provided insight into how the district recruits qualified teachers for STEM positions
“Finding qualified science teachers continues to be a challenge because there are so many employment opportunities in the private sector for math and science majors. We work with surrounding universities to recruit math and science candidates to fill needs in these key areas.“ Stated Gregerson.
When questioned how the district takes steps to address the shortage, Gregerson stated: “We work diligently to connect and support roles such as instructional aides and substitute teachers to mentor and assist with their college course work…We also collaborate with our local high schools and support their educational pathway students by training them in reading, mathematics, and tutoring strategies to help to prepare them to work with our elementary students.”
Will Sandoval, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at California’s Largest high school district — Kern High School District — also gave his thoughts on how local, state, and the federal government can assist in the shortage. Sandoval hopes to see more assistance and/or programs for prospective teachers to ease the shortage.
All three; Richers, Gregerson, and Sandoval, added that their respective districts have been able to fill most of their positions during the current shortage.
As California and the rest of the country grapples with the current teacher shortage, school district officials in Kern County will continue to deal with their fair share of the fight against the shortage as well.