October 19, 2021

180,000 teaching jobs needed over 10 years

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

SUNY Cortland professor of childhood/early childhood education Cynthia Benton, right, talks with education major Kerra Matolka during an arts in curriculum class Thursday in Van Hoesen Hall on the college campus.

Bring. It. On.

That’s more or less what SUNY Cortland officials are saying about the recent statement by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher that New York’s public schools will need 180,000 new teachers over the next 10 years.

Andrea LaChance, dean of the School of Education at SUNY Cortland, said the school welcomes the news because it could turn around what she says has been a steady decrease in enrollment in the education school.

Zimpher told the New York State School Boards Association of the need March 20, saying there are teacher shortages all over, specifically in the areas of foreign language, special education and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The state school board’s analysis of state Education Department data shows the number of classroom teachers in New York’s public schools decreased nearly 11 percent between 2006-07 and 2014-15. It says the state has not experienced an increase in the total number of classroom teachers since the 2008-09 school year and has lost more than 26,000 teachers since 2008-09.

The shortage was inevitable, LaChance said. “We have been talking about this happening.”

Fewer people graduate high schools and go to college, even as the existing teachers age.

LaChance said that a variety of factors like the controversy over initiatives like the Race to the Top, the Common Core and the evaluation of teachers, as well as schools being on tight budgets, combined to create just the atmosphere to diminish interest in the teaching profession.

“Over the last year or two we’ve pretty much stabilized, but before that from five years ago to now, it’s (School of Education enrollment) gone down about 30 percent,” LaChance said.

She said, for example, enrollment in the early childhood education program at the college was at about 800 students five years ago and is down to about 500 now.

LaChance said the school has not taken much of a hit in enrollment overall because it saw increases in health-related fields such as kinesiology and athletic training.

SUNY Cortland has more than enough room to accommodate an influx of students interested in the teaching profession.

“We have plenty of courses and seats available,” she said. And she says now there is an opportunity to revitalize interest in teaching.

“The job we have is of lifting up the profession and saying this is a good profession and we welcome new students and people in coming into teaching,” LaChance said.

She pointed out that SUNY Cortland offers partnerships with schools to help prepare students to be teachers.

“We’re the largest preparer of teachers in the SUNY system and very well known,” she said. “When people think of teacher ed, they often think of SUNY Cortland.”

SUNY Cortland also has recruiting opportunities, LaChance said, including grants to recruit students interested in urban education or students interested in going into science or math education.

Still, an upcoming shortage of 180,000 can seem daunting and LaChance said what needs to be avoided is a shortage of high-quality teachers.

“I think schools that need to get staffed will find people one way or another,” she said. “The real question is how do we meet that demand with quality because schools can do all kinds of things they have to do, make class sizes larger or hire people who do not have all the right credentials.”

Homer School Superintendent Nancy Ruscio agrees a shortage is likely. She has seen a decline in the number of candidates for each position advertised over the last five years.

Some fields are more challenging to fill than others, she said: technology, STEM fields, high school mathematics and music.