San Diego County office of Education

How Serious is the Teacher Shortage in San Diego County?

The San Diego County Office of Education said it has been proactive in trying to attract new people to the profession. Have the efforts been successful?

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As many students in San Diego County get ready to head back to the classroom, school districts are dealing not only with COVID-19 but also with a teacher shortage. It is a problem nationwide and in San Diego County, educators say they have been working to recruit teachers for years.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 10.6 million educators working in public education in January 2020; today there are just 10.0 million, a net loss of around 600,000. Some retired early, others decided to leave the profession altogether, adding to the already existing teacher shortage.

“The teacher shortage actually hit us before COVID, I think it was just exacerbated with COVID,” said the Executive Director of Teacher Effectiveness and Preparation for the San Diego County Office of Education Sheiveh Jones, ED.D. “There has been a teacher shortage for the last 12 to 13 years so this is nothing new,” she said, adding the state has been anticipating this for years.

There were 350 teaching positions in the county, posted on EDJOIN.org since June 1, the job board for most districts in the county. Given there are 20,435 credentialed teachers working in the county, Jones says that is good reelection that the county’s proactive approach over the last several years to recruit new teachers is making a difference. 

“It is not perfect, but we’ve been looking ahead for years knowing that this was coming, and so we’ve just made every effort to make sure that it’s not going to be at a catastrophic level with the shortage," Jones said.

Teacher Matthew Schneck still has concerns. 

“We still have COVID right? …We have a teacher shortage, and we have teachers out with COVID-19…What is that going to look like this year? We’ll see,” he said.

Schneck worries it means teachers will continue to scramble to fill in for classes without substitutes or to fill classes with uncredentialed teachers.

“I understand that the county has to fill in positions, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just putting a body in front of kids and believing it’s going to work out," he said.

Jones said 97% of teachers in the county are fully credentialed, with most teaching in their fields of expertise. The other 3% are either on short-term permits, that is temporarily teaching in a classroom, or they are interns. 

“Those teachers who are not fully credentialed in the classroom, but they are receiving support from a mentor at the school site and then we have a supervisor who works with them on a regular basis as well,” Jones said.

Jones said the bigger picture is more concerning and said like other industries, schools are trying to fill multiple positions.  

“It’s not only teaching, but you think about what it takes to run a school and what it takes to run a district, you have people who work in maintenance, bus drivers, office staff, IT folks. So, if you look at the bigger picture, there is definitely a lot of need and there's a shortage for us here in San Diego County," Jones said.

There are solutions, Jones said, “We always make it work, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t get better, right? And so, there's still going to be a need. I don’t think we should anticipate chaos at all, there’s just too much work that’s put into the planning of opening a school year for it to be chaotic.”

San Diego County has launched the Educator Pathways to support people wanting to enter the field of education, teaching and non-teaching. There are resources including videos, job guides, and a sign-up to stay informed of future events, including webinars.

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