NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Competent Teachers Versus Smaller Classes

February 8, 1999

The popular cry in education now is smaller class sizes. President Clinton wants another 100,000 teachers hired in the next several years. But where are school districts going to find them?

  • In 1996, California launched an ambitious program to hire an additional 20,000 teachers in an effort to reduce the size of elementary school classes.
  • The state pursued its quest by draining substitute teacher pools, raiding private schools, recruiting from other states and Mexico and hiring thousands without state teaching licenses.
  • Today, about 10 percent of California's teachers are working with "emergency" credentials.
  • Throughout the country, rising student enrollments and retirements among teachers in the baby-boom generation will require that two million new teachers be trained -- but teachers colleges are turning out fewer, not more, graduates.

Schools have no choice but to launch aggressive recruitment drives.

  • Massachusetts is offering bonuses of $20,000 each over the course of four years to hire just 50 teachers -- after more than half of aspiring instructors flunked their certification tests on the first round last year.
  • New York City has sent recruiters as far away as Austria.
  • St. Louis headhunters are searching for candidates in South Africa.

Sources: Amy Argetsinger, "Teacher Shortage Stymies Efforts to Cut Class Sizes," Washington Post, February 7, 1999; and Pamela Ferdinand, "$20,000 Bonus Prompts a Rush for Massachusetts Teaching Jobs, Washington Post, February 5, 1999.


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