When Susan Knight decided to become a teacher, some people thought she was crazy.
Her friends, she said, were intellectual snobs about teaching and warned that she would spend all her classroom time disciplining people. Professors were no more encouraging, warning that she wouldn't make any money.
But Knight, who will begin her professional teaching career in September at Glendale High School, ignored the discouraging comments, and school officials are happy that she did.
When she earns her master's degree this month at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, Knight will enter a pool of new teachers who will have little trouble finding jobs in Southern California. After a decade-long glut, teachers are once again in short supply and educators say the problem will grow worse before it gets better.
Study Foresees Shortage
According to a recent Rand Corp. study, by 1988 there will be enough new teachers to satisfy only 80% of the country's demand. State education officials say California will be hard-pressed to find the 110,000 new teachers they predict will be needed over the next decade and foresee shortages in several fields, particularly in math, science and bilingual education.
The short-term picture is not much brighter. The giant Los Angeles Unified School District needs 2,500 teachers by September, primarily to fill vacancies in its southeastern and south-central regions. Northeast Los Angeles schools will also be hard hit, officials said, and about 500 teaching jobs are available in the district's G and H regions, both of which serve such communities as Silver Lake, Highland Park, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Glassell Park, Eagle Rock and Atwater.
Even districts not in trouble now say it's only a matter of time before the shortage hits them.
Consequently, many districts are intensively recruiting teachers for the first time in years--and not all are having an easy time.
For example, the predominantly Latino Bassett School District in the San Gabriel Valley has signed on with a Sacramento-based computer matching service to find 15 to 20 bilingual and special education teachers, said Fay Mason, assistant to the superintendent. Bilingual instructors are a critical need, she said, because 60% of Bassett's 10,000 students speak limited or no English. To cope with the shortage, the district on an emergency basis has been hiring teachers who lack full certification while they complete their training.
Special Pay Raised
While Glendale Unified School District officials say they do not expect the current shortage of teachers to have an immediate effect on their ability to fill most job openings, they too are using the Sacramento service in an effort to find bilingual teachers. And the district last year raised the extra monthly pay that teachers receive if they are certified as bilingual instructors from $40 to $50.
Only 23 teachers now hold certificates to teach bilingual classes, and the district is strongly encouraging other teachers within the district to train for the certificate, Duncan said.
"Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean--we need them all," said Ruth Wilson, the district personnel assistant who in recent months has attended job fairs at several local colleges to recruit teachers. "Teachers who can teach in those languages can literally write their own ticket," she said.
Glendale officials say they have been able to recruit new teachers regularly because the district offers higher salaries and more other enticements than some other districts. Nonetheless, officials are concerned.
"What's happened at other districts hasn't hit us, at least not yet," said Charles Duncan, director of personnel for Glendale schools. "But there are dire predictions out there, and that's not very encouraging."
In Glendale, the school district has about 60 openings for next fall, with science and math teachers also in high demand.
The expected reinstatement of the sixth period for seventh- and eighth-grade students has also sent Glendale recruiters scrambling for qualified teachers. District officials estimated that they will need 10 more teachers in various subjects to fill the additional class time if the tentative budget is adopted.
So the district has increased its personal contact with administrators at colleges and universities that train teachers and is attending more job fairs at the schools, Duncan said.
Although the state Legislature has provided the funds to increase starting salaries in most districts to at least $18,000 a year, some districts are still handicapped in recruiting, either by low teacher wages or by the prospect of inner-city teaching.
Begining teachers in Glendale earn $19,084. And Glendale prides itself on offering schools relatively free of problems of the inner city.