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Press Release

California Voters See Emerging Shortage of Teachers as Very Serious Problem; Believe State Should Take Action

Pie chart: California Voters See Emerging Shortage of Teachers as Very Serious

Oakland, CA, November 17, 2016—California registered voters regard the emerging shortage of K-12 teachers as a very serious problem and think that the state should be taking decisive action to rectify the situation, according to a poll released today by EdSource and the Learning Policy Institute.

The survey was conducted by The Field Poll following recent reports showing that the number of new teaching credentials issued in California has declined steadily for more than a decade, along with even more precipitous reductions in enrollments in teacher preparation programs enrollments.

The poll found that statewide, 64 percent of voters describe the shrinking supply of teachers as “very serious,” and a similar proportion (65 percent) think it’s “extremely important” for the state to be doing more to encourage young people and others to enroll in teacher preparation programs.

The survey of 1,002 registered voters statewide—including both English and Spanish speakers—found there is broad-based voter support (85 percent) for having the state forgive a portion of teachers’ college loans or offer more scholarships to prospective teachers as a way to bring greater numbers into the teaching profession.

By contrast, more than half (52 percent) oppose policies that would allow schools to hire individuals who have not yet completed their training or earned a teaching credential as a way to deal with teacher shortages.

The release of the poll findings coincide with a media briefing on November 17 at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the findings as well as strategies to address the diminishing numbers of Californians entering the teaching profession.

Participants in the briefing include Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute; Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource; Joe Aguerrebere, CSU assistant vice chancellor of Teacher Education and Public School Programs; Eric Heins, president, CTA; Harold Levine, dean, UC Davis School of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson; and Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll.

“Californians clearly want the state to take action to attract, train and retain a talented teaching pool for our schools,” said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource. “We know that for students to achieve, we need to ensure a strong supply of effective, well-trained teachers; and in California, we are coming up short.”

“At a time when California is implementing new standards, it’s important that all students have access to teachers who are well-prepared in those subject areas,” said Linda Darling Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute. “A teacher shortage will set back the state’s education agenda.”

Californians are quite supportive of ensuring that teachers are well-trained and supported prior to entering the profession. More than 9-in-10 say the state should ensure all teachers receive rigorous preparation before they begin teaching, and a similar number (88 percent) believe this should include a year of practice teaching under the guidance of an expert teacher.

Ninety percent also believe new teachers should receive mentoring and support in the early years of practice, and ongoing professional development after they receive their teaching credentials.

Californians are also concerned about teacher salaries. Fifty-eight percent think the starting salary for qualified K-12 teachers in their own communities is too low, while only 21 percent believe it is too high or about right. A 51 percent majority also say it is extremely important for the salaries of entry-level teachers to be commensurate with what other recent college graduates are paid, while another 37 percent say this is somewhat important.

At the same time, 7-in-10 voters would be very or somewhat likely to encourage a friend or family member to become a teacher, though voters under the age of 30 are less apt to say they would be very likely to do so.

Other findings from the survey include the following:

  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) believe it’s important (46 percent extremely important and 31 percent somewhat important) for the state’s teaching force to be racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse.
  • Sixty-one percent support a ballot proposition expected in November 2016 that would require schools to offer academic instruction in both English and their native language to students not proficient in English.
  • Two-in-three Californians believe the fact that public schools in low-income communities have fewer qualified teachers than schools in wealthier communities is a “very serious” problem.
  • Democrats, women, and Latino, Asian American and African American voters are most likely to be concerned about the state’s teacher shortage and are more supportive than other groups of having the state take action.
  • Nearly 3-in-4 Democrats (73 percent) believe the teacher shortage is a “very serious” problem versus 48 percent of Republicans. Sixty-eight percent of women describe the shortage as “very serious” compared with 60 percent of men.
  • In addition, 76 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of women say it is extremely important for the state to do more to encourage young people to enroll in teacher preparation programs, compared with 49 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of men.

There are also substantial differences among voters depending on their race and ethnicity.

  • About 8-in-10 African Americans (82 percent), 7-in-10 Latinos (72 percent) and a similar number of Asian American (68 percent) believe the teacher shortage is a “very serious” problem, compared with nearly 6-in-10 (57 percent) of white non-Hispanics.
  • Similarly, 8-in-10 African Americans, more than 7-in-10 Latinos (74 percent) and 7-in- 10 Asian Americans think it is “extremely important” for the state to do more to encourage young people to enroll in teacher preparation programs compared with fewer than 6-in-10 (58 percent) white non-Hispanics.

The poll was conducted with support, in part, from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.

Note: The attached Chart Pack provides a graphical summary and shows how the results compare across subgroups of the state’s registered voter population.


About the Learning Policy Institute

The Learning Policy Institute conducts and communicates independent, high-quality research to improve education policy and practice. Working with policymakers, researchers, educators, community groups, and others, the Institute seeks to advance evidence-based policies that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the Institute connects policymakers and stakeholders at the local, state, and federal levels with the evidence, ideas, and actions needed to strengthen the education system from preschool through college and career readiness.