California is home to about one in every 12 Americans. With a population of more than 39 million, it is far and away the most populous U.S. state.
That leads to many challenges. One of those is trying to find professionals to teach in California, educating the vast number of students attending private and public schools. According to the California Teachers Association, the Golden State is expected to need about 100,000 more teachers in the coming decade.
For people interested in teaching, and seasoned teachers who are pursuing professional development to reach the top tiers of the profession, California offers a wealth of opportunity.
Urban and Rural Schools
As is the case with many states, the most acute shortage of teachers in California exists in urban and rural areas. Part of the reason is compensation. As the California Teachers Association points out, pay for teachers is less than in other professions that require a similar amount of education, training, and experience. Urban and rural school districts with smaller budgets and therefore lower pay scales have an even bigger teacher shortage, with fewer applicants applying for those jobs.
Other factors include the decline in the number of people entering university-based teacher preparation programs and a coming wave of retiring teachers. In California, as many as one-third of all teachers are expected to retire in the coming decade.
However, California does offer some of the highest pay in the nation for teachers overall. The average annual salary for a high school teacher in California is the fourth highest in the nation, at $77,390, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Teaching shortages mean there are many opportunities for professionals who want to teach in California. A 2017 report by the California-based Learning Policy Institute found that 75 percent of the 25 school districts surveyed could not fill teaching positions.
In some rural and urban schools, extreme steps are being taken to solve the problem. Many districts are filling positions by waiving the qualifications usually required to teach in California. For example, in the Los Angeles district - the state’s largest - about 40 percent of new hires were not certified, according to the Orange County Register.
The state has also started a program to recruit more teachers, spending $100 million to recruit and train special education teachers where there is a major shortage.
The teacher’s association lays out what it believes is a long-term solution. It includes:
- Paying teachers better to attract more to the profession
- Giving teachers a say in school policies
- Providing teachers with a safe environment
- Providing beginning teachers with mentors and professional development
- Reducing class sizes
According to the association, school districts need to have a better understanding of the complexity of the job and treat teachers like the professionals they are. California is making an effort to do just that and teachers who have taken advantage of professional development opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills should find California is a welcoming place to carve out a teaching career.