HUNTINGTON PARK, Calif. — Most California school districts are having trouble hiring teachers. The state is also seeing an uptick in educators leaving the classroom because of retirements and stress.

What You Need To Know

  • California is experiencing a teacher shortage
  • The KIPP Pueblo Unido school employs several long-term substitute teachers who can get teaching credentials, classroom experience and a paycheck at the same time to ultimately become lead teachers
  • The TeachStart program also helps pay tuition for these prospective educators
  • The California Center for Teaching Careers aims to recruit 25,000 teachers over the next five years

On the statewide teacher recruitment platform, there are over 50,000 open jobs. This shows a multifaceted problem requiring multiple changes. One approach is to make it less of a financial burden to become a teacher.

At the end of the semester, David Abelon packs up school supplies.

“It’s bittersweet because this is one of the few classes that I subbed in quite a bit,” he said. “So even though it’s not my class, I still get a little sentimental because I know it’s closing up one year.”

Abelon spent the entire school year as a substitute teacher at KIPP Pueblo Unido. Next year, this public charter school will welcome more students than ever as they add third-grade students on campus.

By then, Abelon will be a lead teacher because he’s on what’s sometimes called an earn-and-learn pathway. He’s getting his teaching credential, classroom experience and a paycheck at the same time. The TeachStart program also helps pay for his tuition.

The extra classes create more vacancies that talent acquisition manager Arica Watford must fill.

“Summer, for me, is a sprint for sure,” Watford said. “Our goal is to have as many teachers hired before the first day of school.”

She’s noticed a decrease in applicants. Thus, people with less experience must be considered.

“It’s challenging to find teachers, maybe with the experience that we would have hired in years past. This year we’re definitely hiring a lot more teachers who are newer,” Watford said.

By converting substitute teachers into lead teachers, at least there’s a familiarity that’s been developed over months of working with the students.

“We do have a sub shortage in addition to the teaching shortage, but I think the better benefit is to just have more teachers in the classroom as the subs are to cover for teachers,” Watford said.

Marvin Lopez left the classroom to work at the California Center on Teaching Careers, where he is the assistant executive director. The agency was established years ago because the teacher shortage has been going on for a while. Besides developing some creative marketing materials to attract and inform people who are interested in education, he also supports alternative routes that make it easier to join the teaching profession.

“This is probably very common across the nation: how do we get those individuals that become teachers, how do we help them financially,” Lopez said.

That’s what was holding Abelon back — the money.

“I kind of gave up on my dream of teaching a long time ago when it first didn’t happen, so stepping in my sub role kind of opened my eyes again… How much I absolutely love working with students,” Abelon said.

Next year he won’t just teach, Abelon will also have some lessons to learn himself.

The California Center for Teaching Careers announced its latest goal of recruiting 25,000 teachers over the next five years. To support this, the center was included in the governor’s budget.