NYC teachers unions talks potential fall teacher shortage

Classroom Progress Report

NEW YORK (PIX11) — As a school year unlike any other comes to a close, the head of New York City’s largest teachers union is warning that the city could face a possible teacher shortage ahead of the next school year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio disagrees with the assessment, saying that the city remains a popular destination for prospective instructors. Parents, however, aren’t necessarily convinced.

Is the city facing a shortage? “We might be,” said Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers—the largest teachers union in the city and the nation. “We’re seeing a teacher shortage across the entire country. New York City has always been able to stay outside of that. But I don’t know if that’s going to continue. I think we might start seeing a shortage for the first time in a while.”

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Nationwide, a majority of school leaders report a shortage of teachers for fall.

According to a survey by Frontline Education, 60% of school superintendents and other leaders in suburban areas said they have a teacher shortage; 65% of rural-area education leaders said that they’re lacking adequate numbers of teachers; and in the nation’s cities, 75% of school leaders reported a shortage. 

Many NYC parents said that they see a similar situation at their schools. “There was a shortage,” said Kaseem Brown, the parent of a fifth grader. “It wasn’t so noticeable that everybody was like, ‘Where are the teachers?’ But there was a little shortage. I just hope they get it together.”

Another parent, Eloisa Tlatenchi, was with her fifth- and third-grade sons when she spoke about a possible shortage. “I’m scared they’re not going to get the education they need,” she said.

Another parent, Beurry Dorcenat, said that her son has special needs. This past school year, there weren’t enough professionals to fully help him. “I couldn’t find speech [specialists] to come for the whole year,” she said.  “I’m just hoping that this year will be better.”

In response to the situation, de Blasio said that there’s no need for concern. “Two jobs that lots and lots and lots of people want [are] teacher in the New York City public schools and officer in the NYPD. There is a long, long line of people who want those jobs. So I do not see any danger of a shortage,” the mayor said during his daily briefing on Wednesday morning.

The Department of Education also said that its received 900 new teaching fellow trainees for next year, up from 75 last year; plus 300 paraprofessionals training to be teachers, up from 25; and its made a total of 1,250 new hires for some of the students with the greatest educational needs. However, that number is less than 2% of the 75,000 teachers needed in the country’s largest public school system.

Kaliris Salas is on the board of the education advocacy group Parents for Responsive Equitable Safe Schools, and she leads the Community Education Council in District 4, in East Harlem. In that capacity, she’s in close communication with current teachers, and helps to hire new ones. Salas said that many teachers are exiting.

“In my son’s school, we’re having a turnover,” she said. “About a third of our teachers are leaving, and I know it’s happening across the district.”

What’s the reason for the turnover? She has a hypothesis. “I’m seeing it, I’m talking to teachers, they’re burnt out,” she added.

“We’ll take steps to address it quickly,” De Blasio said about how his administration would handle a problem with the teacher pipeline for the fall. “But as of this hour in June,” he continued, “I feel very good about where we’re going to be in September.”

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