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Poll: Concern among majority of Californians about teacher shortage

Craig Clough | November 17, 2015

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LAUSD Hires 700 new teachersA poll released today by EdSource and the Learning Policy Institute shows that the majority of California voters are concerned about the teacher shortage facing the state and support the state’s taking action to help fix the problem.

The survey of 1,002 registered voters, which was conducted by the The Field Poll, found that 64 percent of voters think the teacher shortage is “very serious” while 22 percent say it is “somewhat serious.”

The poll also found that 58 percent think the starting salary for qualified K-12 teachers in their own communities is too low, while 85 percent support the state forgiving a portion of teachers’ college loans or offering more scholarships to prospective teachers as a way to help alleviate the problem.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has plummeted since 2008, and more than 100,000 teachers are expected to retire in the next decade.

In a conference call with reporters, State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson and other education leaders noted the high level of awareness that the state’s voters have of the issue as a positive sign.

“It’s encouraging that there is a high level of awareness of the problem and also sort of the subsets of the problem where the trouble is even more acute. This is like an iceberg. We’re seeing the tip of it,” Torlakson said. “So we know, and it looks from the poll results, the public is quite aware that effective, committed teachers are what makes education work.”

Other findings from the poll include:

  • 46 percent of voters think it is “extremely important” and 31 percent think it is “somewhat important” for the state’s teaching force to be racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse.
  • Sixty-one percent support a ballot proposition expected in November 2016 that would require schools to offer academic instruction in both English and their native language to students who are not proficient in English.
  • Two of three Californians believe that public schools in low-income communities have fewer qualified teachers than schools in wealthier communities is a “very serious” problem.
  • Democrats, women, and Latino, Asian American and African-American voters are most likely to be concerned about the state’s teacher shortage and are more supportive than other groups of having the state take action.

Joe Aguerrebere, associate director of Teacher Education and Public School Programs, CSU Office of the Chancellor, did offer a ray of hope and said students enrolling in teacher preparation programs rose slightly this year.

“We’ve seen an increase in applications up out 8 percent this year over the previous year, and we expect that the numbers will continue to go up, which we think is a positive sign,” he said.




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