Credit: Allison Shelley / The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action

As an education consultant with 11 years of experience as a teacher and school administrator, I am deeply concerned that our nation faces a dire teacher shortage. California ranks first among the top 10 states with teacher shortages, spanning the subject areas of early childhood education, language arts, mathematics, science and special education. By 2024, the United States can expect a deficit of about 200,000 teachers.

State and federal legislators must enact measures to alleviate the conditions causing teachers to quit. The public must demand action from legislators to stop the bleeding in our education system.

While there was a teacher shortage before 2020, the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic and ever-increasing work demands created a perfect storm. Many teachers reached a breaking point due to unparalleled physical and emotional stress from exploitive work conditions that denied them breaks, planning time and the professional autonomy to deliver instruction in ways that best met their students’ needs. In a 2021 online poll of 700 teachers and 300 administrators, 54% noted that they were “somewhat” or “very” likely to leave the teaching profession within the next two years, while only 34% gave the same response in 2019.

Nearly 50% of teachers are crippled by student loan debt before signing their first teaching contract. The average student loan balance for educators is $58,700, with 14% owing more than $100,000. Veteran educators are not exempt from drowning in debt, with 25% of educators over age 61 owing balances of up to $45,000. While educators are entitled to student loan forgiveness after 10 years of service under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the program is irretrievably broken. About 98% who apply for loan debt relief are denied. Meanwhile, loan-servicing companies are raking in profits.

Current students pursuing a teaching credential need support, and we must retain veteran teachers. The public needs to demand that legislators enact the following:

  • Longevity bonuses for veteran teachers beginning in the sixth year of service and graduating to a maximum of $1,500 per year. For reference, many school superintendents receive longevity bonuses in their contracts.
  • Signing bonuses for all new teachers who receive the lowest pay on district salary schedules.
  • Automatic loan forgiveness with 20% of the debt forgiven each year and 100% forgiven by the end of the fifth year of service.
  • Daily substitute pay rate for all soon-to-be teachers in the student-teaching phase.

Currently, the three- to four-month period for student teaching, required before new teachers are fully credentialed, is unpaid, making it unsustainable for too many potentially great teachers.

  • All tuition, credential costs and initial licensure assessment costs paid by the state for new teachers.

To “grow” a future supply of teachers, we also need:

  • Mentor programs for middle, high school and undergraduate students who want to become teachers, allowing them to learn pedagogy principles in an authentic setting while working with children.
  • Stipends for veteran mentors who would be carefully selected to work with middle and high school students who want to pursue an education career.

Some may argue that these ideas are too costly for the state. But the continued loss of teachers could prevent schools from remaining open, which is far more costly. The negative effect on children’s academic progress during pandemic school shutdowns and the subsequent lack of substitute teachers to cover classrooms when teachers were out sick forewarn what will come if our state legislators fail to intervene. Time is of the essence, and it is past time for teachers to know that our state and federal leaders appreciate their work and understand how vital teachers are to the success of our children.

To find your local legislator, click here and use your address or current location. For tips on communicating with legislators, click here. For more information on the movement to end education debt, click here.

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Cassandra R. Henderson is a former public school teacher and administrator in the Sacramento area and currently works as an education consultant for the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

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  1. Marisa Flynn 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Recruit folks as a 2nd career but be honest and tell them about legislation Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), and how they could lose most or all of their Social Security forever once they have a CalSTRS pension. I was not told all through teacher training process!! I found out by accident after I was already teaching.

  2. Tony 4 weeks ago4 weeks ago

    The teacher credentialing process is not only costly, it is also arduous and requires much too many hoops to jump through. We certainly need teachers who are qualified, but let's not making the teaching profession more difficult to pursue than running for a local, county, or state level office. When candidates look at the amount of steps/processes required to obtain a teacher credential (preliminary or full) and what they'll be paid after taking a teaching … Read More

    The teacher credentialing process is not only costly, it is also arduous and requires much too many hoops to jump through. We certainly need teachers who are qualified, but let’s not making the teaching profession more difficult to pursue than running for a local, county, or state level office. When candidates look at the amount of steps/processes required to obtain a teacher credential (preliminary or full) and what they’ll be paid after taking a teaching position, it simply is not worth the work.

  3. Double M 2 months ago2 months ago

    Teachers are the real heroes...but if they are so hard up, why is every teacher in my inland district living in a Beach city? I don't think we need more incentives for teachers except for STEM subjects. When I took my CBEST, there were about 100 kids there. Seems like there's a pipeline waiting to get in. But I agree with loan forgiveness, trainees should be paid, and credentials are … Read More

    Teachers are the real heroes…but if they are so hard up, why is every teacher in my inland district living in a Beach city? I don’t think we need more incentives for teachers except for STEM subjects. When I took my CBEST, there were about 100 kids there. Seems like there’s a pipeline waiting to get in. But I agree with loan forgiveness, trainees should be paid, and credentials are a racket. So are superintendent bonuses… there’s a job that should be easy to fill.

  4. Laura 2 months ago2 months ago

    Can we discuss the fact that when my husband renews his credentials, he has to pay out of pocket! In my husband's district he hasn't received a raise in 10 years, but yet prices all over California are going up, and he stays the same! As a family of 4 we struggle to pay bills, gas, food, but he is expected to keep loving his job, even though that "job" doesn't fully support our family! … Read More

    Can we discuss the fact that when my husband renews his credentials, he has to pay out of pocket! In my husband’s district he hasn’t received a raise in 10 years, but yet prices all over California are going up, and he stays the same!

    As a family of 4 we struggle to pay bills, gas, food, but he is expected to keep loving his job, even though that “job” doesn’t fully support our family! Also, this one angers me! My husband isn’t allowed to transfer school districts and take his tenure, his 22 years of experience pay with him. If he was to transfer, he would lose his tenure, and about 14 years pay on the salary scale! California and the public treat their teachers badly, but yet demand nothing but excellence! It’s an unappreciated career, and my husband’s 22 years means nothing.

    Parents and California expect excellence with the least amount of money! You want to stop teacher shortage, or experienced teachers leaving? Pay them, acknowledge them, let them transfer if they need to, and stop making them pay out of pocket for their credentials!

  5. MathTeacher 2 months ago2 months ago

    If CA truly cared about retaining teachers, they wouldn’t let districts fire over medical freedom choices (mask, vax, testing). If CA truly cared about keeping quality teachers, the same 6 people on a campus wouldn’t teach 2-3 classes every year while colleagues teach 6 for the same money. The CA Dept of Education is broken and has become a place where nepotism reigns and ideologies matter more than academics.

  6. Nick Allen 2 months ago2 months ago

    Well done. I haven’t seen anything spelled out in such a comprehensive way!

  7. Theresa 2 months ago2 months ago

    As an educator intervention and retired substitute teacher , I see the stress that teachers are under daily . Class size reduction is needed as well as funding to provide intervention teachers . I left subbing during COVID and am not driven to return due to low pay of subs. I am aware that many districts have risen sub pay considerably; however, as credentialed teachers we should receive at least a beginning teachers … Read More

    As an educator intervention and retired substitute teacher , I see the stress that teachers are under daily . Class size reduction is needed as well as funding to provide intervention teachers . I left subbing during COVID and am not driven to return due to low pay of subs. I am aware that many districts have risen sub pay considerably; however, as credentialed teachers we should receive at least a beginning teachers salary.

    Also the cost of living in CA is so high that many families are stressed or leaving CA and they don’t have time to be involved in their child’s education. Parent involvement and education are very important. There are so many changes to be made.

  8. Jim 2 months ago2 months ago

    There used to be “teachers colleges.” Maybe we need to bring them back across the US. I am not a CA certified teacher though my wife is. She said all the credentialing was useless and only designed to reduce the number of teachers by erecting a barrier to entry to keep the number of teachers down.

  9. Maggie Carrillo Mejia 2 months ago2 months ago

    Thank you for framing the issue as it exists in the present and highlighting the impact on students in the future. Additionally, the shortage of bilingual teachers across school levels needs to be addressed.

  10. Maya 2 months ago2 months ago

    California has the most burdensome credentials standards. The argument I heard is that credentials prepares teacher candidates with a solid foundation, but if this were true why are CA public schools so awful? Eliminate the stiff credential pathways. Also, a state Superintendent should come from the ed ranks not politics

  11. Robin Stearns 2 months ago2 months ago

    States need to recognize trainings from other accredited sources not just the traditional route. Organizations such as Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education are recognized by the US Department of Education, but many states won’t recognize their credentials. As to Early Childhood Education, this needs to be respected more and not just something to do while your own children are young. ECE teaching is a career and we should receive the … Read More

    States need to recognize trainings from other accredited sources not just the traditional route. Organizations such as Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education are recognized by the US Department of Education, but many states won’t recognize their credentials.

    As to Early Childhood Education, this needs to be respected more and not just something to do while your own children are young. ECE teaching is a career and we should receive the same benefits that are available to k-12 teachers.

  12. Martie Lubetkin 2 months ago2 months ago

    Why not remove the testing requirements that do nothing but line the pockets of publishers who then lobby our legislators? Passing a standardized test shows only that a person can pass a test, not whether a candidate will be a good teacher. With internships and student teaching, we learn all we need to know about future success in an actual classroom. Standardized tests are nothing but barriers to otherwise qualified candidates who really want … Read More

    Why not remove the testing requirements that do nothing but line the pockets of publishers who then lobby our legislators?

    Passing a standardized test shows only that a person can pass a test, not whether a candidate will be a good teacher. With internships and student teaching, we learn all we need to know about future success in an actual classroom. Standardized tests are nothing but barriers to otherwise qualified candidates who really want to be teachers, but may not be good test takers.

  13. Martin Blythe 2 months ago2 months ago

    Well said, Cassandra. I agree with all of these recommendations but I have two questions for you: (1) Why not recommend reducing the excessive credentialing requirements which are a huge deterrent to potential or new teachers - especially Induction. Why would anyone want to teach when there are those barriers? (2) Why isn't the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing not making its voice heard? It seems to me that they don't think we have … Read More

    Well said, Cassandra. I agree with all of these recommendations but I have two questions for you: (1) Why not recommend reducing the excessive credentialing requirements which are a huge deterrent to potential or new teachers – especially Induction. Why would anyone want to teach when there are those barriers? (2) Why isn’t the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing not making its voice heard? It seems to me that they don’t think we have an emergency here. We do.