New Jersey school administrators sound the alarm about teacher shortages. The U.S. Department of Education says New Jersey has a shortage of teachers in math, science, and other areas. At a recent hearing in Trenton on the subject, one legislator called the situation a “crisis.”
Such shortages will mean that class sizes will be larger, some teachers will lack subject matter expertise, and the overall quality of instruction may be impaired.
The proximate cause of the current teacher shortage is pandemic-driven early retirements, but these have only exacerbated a steep decline in the number of teacher candidates since 2010-11. The problem pre-dates the pandemic.
New Jersey lawmakers have taken some steps to address the current shortage but the decline in teacher candidates is a long-term trend and they must consider steps to reverse it as well.
In our most recent report, the Sunlight Policy Center looks at the issue from a young college graduate’s perspective. We pose a basic question: does employment in New Jersey’s current public school system present an appealing prospect for today’s college graduates?
Today’s generation of college graduates is different from previous generations. They seek mobility rather than stability and “career ladders,” and change jobs more frequently.
But in New Jersey, new teachers are forced into an antiquated, union-dominated bureaucracy and an inflexible employment system that promotes stability and privileges seniority, not mobility and flexibility.
Here’s what a recent college graduate can expect from becoming a teacher in New Jersey:
The hard truth is that New Jersey’s public school system disfavors new and younger teachers.
If New Jersey needs more new teachers, it must adopt policies to encourage them to join the teaching profession. But those policies must address the values and interests of today’s college graduates. The nature of employment in New Jersey’s public school system has not changed very much over the last 50 years, but the nature of our younger generations most certainly has.
Our current employment system is not young-teacher-friendly. Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves how the system can be improved to make the teaching profession more appealing to today’s young college graduates?