State mandates, high cost of living put pressure on Bay Area school districts

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- A teacher shortage is the reality in the Bay Area and across California.

The Learning Policy Institute, an education research organization, showed 80% of districts surveyed reported having a shortage of qualified teachers.

82% of them reported hiring under-prepared teachers.

RELATED: Building a Better Bay Area: Keeping teachers in the Bay Area

Fremont Unified School District is one of the most successful districts in the Bay Area, with high performing schools and 35,000 students.

But salaries and health care costs are starting to wear on teachers as the cost of living rises.

Some take on second jobs. Others move back home with mom and dad to help make ends meet.

About 2,000 teachers work in the Fremont Unified School District.

The latest staff retention numbers show an increase in resignations and retirements over the past few years.

In the 2015-2016 school year, there were 72 resignations and 21 retirements.

RELATED: Bay Area teachers working second jobs to make ends meet

Two years later those numbers jumped.

In 2017-2018 there were 113 resignations and 45 retirements.

Overall this is about a 92% retention rate for the district.

Victoria Birbeck-Herrera, the President of the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association, says the numbers show people aren't making teaching a lifetime career.

"But the reality is if all of our educators were choosing to teach for a lifetime that's 30 or more years which means we should only be losing 3% a year," said Birbeck-Herrera.

Fremont Unified School District officials acknowledge the cost of living in the Bay Area and really across California is an issue for teacher retention.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, Raul Zamora, says state funding is not enough.

RELATED: Bay Area, California schools struggle to keep teachers in competitive market

Zamora says California recently shifted more of the pension costs to districts.
That along with new special education requirements and no extra funding means millions of dollars that could go to teachers are going elsewhere.

"How are we going to resolve this? Is it going to come in cuts? Is it going to come in class size increasing. We don't know that as yet but we're trying to resolve this as quickly as possible," said Zamora.

A statewide teacher shortage means hiring has become more difficult.

A Learning Policy Institute report from October says the number of new teaching credentials issued annually to fully prepared candidates remains near historic lows.

RELATED: Teachers seeking solutions to San Francisco's affordable housing crisis

Finding math, science and special education teachers is particularly difficult.

Many math and science majors are going into the tech industry.

So what can be done to improve the teacher shortage?

A Learning Policy Institute report says there several evidence-based policies to take including offering service scholarships and student loan forgiveness, provide mentoring and induction for new teachers and offer competitive compensation.

The researchers say these strategies can help states build long-term sustainable systems to attract, develop, and retain a strong and stable teacher workforce.

Read more on the Bay Area teacher shortage.
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