Central Coast schools are experiencing teacher shortages, connected to a larger statewide - and national - phenomenon of fewer people going into the profession.
Teacher applicant pools in the region are getting smaller. The trend is reflective of a larger statewide and nationwide teacher shortage according to superintendent of schools for San Luis Obispo County, James Brescia. Superintendent Brescia said the pool has been decreasing dramatically in the past 16 years.
“The Cal state system in 2000 issued around 77,000 teaching credentials," Brescia said. "Last year they issued just over 15,000, so the pipeline has decreased.”
Brescia said he thinks some contributing factors to the shortage include baby boomers leaving the industry, high cost of living and the recession, when teachers across the state received pink slips from struggling districts. Many of those teachers simply didn’t return to the profession once the economy recovered.
South Monterey County Joint Union High School District Superintendent Daniel Moraio said he thinks the recession deterred people from pursuing teaching. Moraio said he’s expecting to have ten to 12 vacancies for next year.
"There’s such a dramatic shortage of individuals with credentials," Moraio said. "And particularly at the high school level where you have to have teachers with a credential in the content area for which they teach. So it makes our task a little more challenging.”
Moraio said there have always been certain subjects that are difficult to find teachers for, but he’s seeing that difficulty spread into other subjects as well.
“In the areas of math and science it’s always been difficult, but it’s even more difficult now," Moraio said. "And interestingly in an area we’ve used to be able to find teachers rather quickly is in the area of teaching English. Yet in the last two years, we’ve found that we’ve really had to search far and wide to find a teacher in that content area as well.”
So schools bring in intern teachers who don’t have credentials yet. Moraio said this can sometimes create extra work in terms of mentoring the teachers, but he said the school district will need to increasingly take on that responsibility.
"We’re doing everything we can to get qualified people to stand in front of [the] students,” Moraio said.
But the situation varies between locations. According to data from job website Edjoin.org, as of December 16, 2016, Santa Barbara has 44 vacant teaching positions, San Luis Obispo has 77, and Monterey county has 138 vacant. The California county average stands at 117 vacancies.
We compiled data for listings of Central Coast schools you can view here.
Monterey County Office of Education spokesperson Jessica Hull said the larger vacancy count there is likely related to its number of districts.
“Monterey county has 24 districts within its county," Hull said. "So within those 24 districts, there would be a number of vacancies, most of them being in the Monterey Peninsula Unified and Salinas area districts, which have much higher populations.”
To combat difficulties with the high cost of living, some schools like San Luis Coastal Unified School District are hiring teachers within the county, what education officials - such as the district’s director of personnel Christine Newlon - calls, “growing their own.”
“We draw a lot from our own county," Newlon said. "People who are already living here, maybe they grew up here or they are already at Cal Poly experiencing the high cost of living, so they are aware of it. We do get applicants a lot from the Valley, but when they come over here and see the high cost of living, that's when many of them say, 'I just can't afford to come over here.' "
Some schools are offering incentives like tuition reimbursement for teachers willing to pursue difficult-to-fill positions in areas like special education or the sciences.
And in Monterey county, Hull said they’re even going overseas to fill vacancies in special education.
“The county office is in desperate need of special education and alternative education teachers so much so that we have set up a recruitment trip to the Philippines next month in January of 2017, where we are specifically going to look for special and alternative education teachers,” said Hull.