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Educators to Capitol Hill: Teacher shortages harm students and public schools

(pictured above: Wisconsin educator Tim Vedra (left) and California educator Harold Acord)

by Brian Washington

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Educators are using their personal experiences to help Members of Congress figure out the best ways to make sure that all public school students have a caring, qualified, and committed educator.

On Tuesday, Tim Vedra, a 4th grade teacher from Beloit, Wisconsin, and Harold Acord, a high school German and Spanish teacher from Moreno Valley, California, both took part in a congressional briefing about the national teacher shortage. It was sponsored by Representatives Mark Takano (CA) and Mark Pocan (WI).

Here is some of what Acord and Vedra had to say to lawmakers:

The dwindling number of candidates for certification who enroll in teacher preparation programs each year reflects this. Our nation’s teacher/educator workforce does not reflect the diversity of the students whom we teach. We can and should do more to recruit and retain a diverse teacher/educator workforce. In order to create and keep a diverse pool of teacher candidates we need to begin early during an undergraduate’s education to provide opportunities for gaining experience in educational settings. Experiences in the field should take place early and often. It is important to offer an undergraduate teacher preparation with early field experience. –Harold Acord, Moreno, CA

The attack on public education in Wisconsin has left professional educators feeling demoralized. Without collective bargaining, educators have little input into school decisions that impact students and little stability in what their pay and working conditions are. Due to this instability, students are facing a revolving door of teachers in our schools as professional educators choose to retire, move to another district that is wealthier and can afford higher salaries for its employees, or leave the profession altogether for another career. Our students are the ones who suffer with this turnover as they deserve to have the best and brightest in their classrooms year after year.—Tim Vedra, Beloit, WI

The briefing was held in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which should bring issues like the nation’s teacher shortage to the forefront of the public debate.

Click here to read Acord’s testimony in its entirety.
Click here to read Vedra’s testimony in its entirety.

16 responses to “Educators to Capitol Hill: Teacher shortages harm students and public schools

  1. There needs to be a real emphasis on retention, not just on recruiting Experience really matters, and I say that as one who spent 38 years teaching. The nonsense about all teachers being “burned out,” ignores the reality of teachers who have created programs and courses. You can’t do that without time. Unfortunately, the worst financial problem in teaching continues to be the lack of reward for experience. The only way to make decent money in public education is to abandon the students and become an administrator. The structure needs basic change, and not just twitchy “bonuses” or merit pay plans which fizzle away before anyone even knows if they work.

  2. Not just our children suffer. Society suffers as a whole. Everything and everyone in this world is interdependent and until people realizes that we will not be able to move forward.

  3. I am a career changer who went in the educational field becuase I wanted to make a difference in the lives of the children. My concern is that the teachers are not regarded as professionals or practitioners in their area of expertise. The system is so flawed in that the economic system is taking away from the resources that our students need to compete in the global marketplace. Our children need support and encouragement to excel and reach for the best for their future. We need more teacher Scholarships and fellowships to help the future teachers as well as support to retain and enrich the teachers as they enter the profession. I have been determined to stay in the profession, even though I had many obstacles in my path and I have been denied a full-time teacher position for 5 years. I have been applying and applying for employment, but have been pidgen holed into a status of substitute teacher etc. I believe there are qualified people out there who are still being underemployed and passed over. Please restructure the way you hire teachers and look in you teacher pools and hire the teachers that are dedicated to the future of our youth. Don’t forget the new teachers and the career changers who have a lot to offer our students.

  4. Florida: Stop using the Marzano evaluation system. It’s destroying teacher morale. We should be using the previous evaluation system. If a teacher has proven his/her skills as a professional, them let him/her teach without the constant classroom visits. I think teachers wouldn’t mind putting together a portfolio of professional growth vs. constant administrative and coach visitations that seem to highlight negative things, instead of boosting the positive things teachers are doing. I want to leave the school system because I can’t stand the visits!

  5. The families are stressed, students are stressed, the teachers are stressed as the middle class slips away. (Why do so many young teachers have to have a second job just to survive?) Add to that the fun in education has been replaced with perpetual progress monitoring, training to the test and huge developmentally inappropriate academic expectations. It is amazing how successful schools are considering the barrage of Federal mandates, blame put on educators in the media and inability of many families to provide the pre skills needed to enter kindergarten ready for none stop academics during the school day.

    Schools and education are only one small symptom of much larger social and political problems we are facing.

  6. I am a teacher in Ohio, and my biggest fear is that we will have the same things Happened us that happened to Wisconsin educators, Indiana, and Michigan. We have held them off some so far. Teacher shortage will not only get worse it will get to the point where the amount of money to fix it it will be far more costly than what these GOP governors and legislators could imagine. You want to fix this than its time to admit that the success of the school is tied to the families and the community around it. Stop blaming teachers. We must have collective-bargaining rights. Teachers must lead the way. Legislators who is only goal is to make money off of public education need to be voted out. For profit charter schools need to be closed down or forced to do the job of actually educating, not bankrolling political campaigns.

    1. I agree Adam. Many of the positions available in Michigan are through Charter Schools that pay a laughable salary for a person with a college degree, certification and several years of teaching experience. Another problem of teacher retention is Public school funding cuts. Many teachers have up to 35 kids in a class with no planning period in their daily schedule. Who would want to or could teach in a situation like that.

  7. Bob – In case you haven’t been paying attention, public education is not subject to the laws of market based capitalism which emphasizes private ownership of the means of production. It’s a govt. service so everyone has access to the system and is not excluded based on the ability to pay. If teacher salaries need elevating, then our lawmakers have to exercise the political will to do it.

    Unfortunately, a certain political party who hates the word “taxes” has been starving public education for years and now has the nerve to complain that it’s the fault of govt. for shortages, low wages, and the resource-starved situation of our schools. Bottom line: You get what you pay for.

  8. Good news for teachers. Unless the government gets involved and messes up a capitalistic system, demand will drive wages up. But the government will do something stupid (think liberal, progressive thinking) to keep wages low and hire incompetents.

    1. Demand will not necessarily drive wages up. Districts, like capitalist corporations, will seek first a pool of labor that they can continue to pay low wages to.This is already happening as the flood of charter schools, keen to reduce costs, hire from the ill-prepared and temporary Teach for America corps and others with little experience and even the uncredentialed. And of course the charters are non-union for the most part to prevent teachers from using collective bargaining to elevate their situation. This also drives the most attractive candidates from pursuing the profession as they will not take such a highly demanding job at such low enumeration. What results is a low paid and underperforming cadre of teachers. It is by avoiding the capitalist model, not allowing it to drive education towards its profit-obsessed goal, that education will survive.

  9. Another big reason teachers are leaving would be that are not permitted to actually teach. The students suffer because tests are being given so much that teachers find themselves teaching for the test. This is not good for the students or the teachers.
    Another reason teachers are leaving is because Instructional Assistants (TA) are being forced out because of funding. They are a vital part of the educational team and they are being treated unfairly by prinicipals and government.
    Respectfully submitted

  10. STOP TESTING SO MUCH, TEACHERS WILL BE HAPPIER, KIDS WILL LEARN MORE THAN WHAT WE ARE REQUIRED TO TEACH FOR THE TEST…
    Has NOTHING to do with diversity among hired Teachers. THE BEST CANDIDATES should be hired, it’s NOT A RACE WAR!
    PAY US WHAT WE ARE WORTH.
    ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE. Fix these two issues and teachers will stay… DUH!!

    1. Amen. My good friend, Marci, is White. I’m Black. We serve a diverse student population. I’ve seen Marci nuture and educate, all students regardless of their race, into college. You’re right it is not about race. It is about quality teachers being hired to educate students! Pay us, respect us, and support us by giving us the resources and respect that we all desire in order
      to teach.

  11. This is a nationwide problem. I hope that the Department of Education can assist teacher preparation programs in recruiting more students for this most important position as a classroom teachers. Numbers do not begin to tell the story of what the lack of a sufficiently staffed educational force has done to our educational system. Thank you to Mr. Acord and Mr. Vedra from a recently retired colleague (and on behalf of my former colleagues)for testifying about this important concern!

  12. I too am thinking about retiring. I love teaching but hate what Florida politics and low wages are doing to education. We are even having a difficult time recruiting substitute teachers because they are only getting minimum wage and a lot of grief. Thus a classroom must be divided up between the other classes to ensure coverage for a sick teacher!

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