Politics

New survey finds broad support for fixing California teacher shortage

FILE: Zoe Kumagai, a new music teacher at Veterans Elementary School in Chula Vista, California, instructs a group of kindergarten students.
FILE: Zoe Kumagai, a new music teacher at Veterans Elementary School in Chula Vista, California, instructs a group of kindergarten students.
Mary Plummer/KPCC

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A new survey conducted by the Field Poll gauged voter interest in solving the teacher shortage in California and found broad support for fixing the problem.

"It’s a very, very high level of concern that people expressed around this issue,” said Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, the education information website that partnered on the survey with the Learning Policy Institute, a policy think tank focused on improving public schools.

As KPCC has reported, the teacher shortage is weighing on school districts across the state. Many experts say the declining numbers of teacher candidates will only get worse.

According to the Field Poll results released Tuesday, 64 percent of voters describe the teacher shortage as “very serious.” But the survey also found support for ongoing teacher development and mentoring for teachers, with 62 and 59 percent of registered voters supporting those ideas, respectively.

In part because of budget problems in recent years, Freedberg said the state has lost many programs intended to keep and attract teachers.

Teacher credentialing and preparation programs have recently reported declines in candidate numbers. At the same time, many baby boomers are preparing to leave their teaching jobs for retirement and the recovering economy has opened up more positions for instructors.

One administrator has called the combination of factors "the perfect storm."

The Field survey also found support for a ballot initiative that would require schools to offer instruction in native languages other than English. Sixty-one percent of registered voters said they would back a proposed requirement for schools to mandate instruction in both English and students' native languages, such as Spanish, when they are not proficient in English.

With a year to go, supporters of nearly 100 measures are trying to qualify their proposals for next November's ballot.

The deadline for measures to qualify is June 30.