OSWEGO, NY — Public schools across the state say it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find teachers, leaving them scrambling to fill thousands of open positions each year.
Over the past 10 years, SUNY schools have seen a 50 percent decrease in students entering education programs. The decline in students studying education lead New York State lawmakers to estimate that in the next decade, the state will need to fill 1.5 million teaching positions.
The trend has impacted higher education programs statewide. SUNY Oswego is just one of the many schools in the country that have seen a decrease in enrollment in its teaching program. In 2008 the School of Education had 1,800 students enrolled, that number is now down to 400.
The problems associated with fewer teachers in college ranks is affecting public schools statewide. Laurel Byron, a current professor at SUNY Oswego, taught elementary school for 31 years. Professor Byron said she believes if the trend continues so will the problems within the education system.
“You’re going to have a larger class size and the students aren’t going to get the attention they need and then the test scores will go down and then they will be deemed a school in need of improvement. It’s just a vicious cycle,” Bryon said.
New York State lawmakers are trying to compensate for the growing teacher shortage. The education funding budget was increased to $26 billion this year. Lawmakers say the budget will be allocated towards resources in the classroom as well as the potential to increase teacher salaries.
High student loan debt and low starting salaries are the leading causes in the teacher shortage. According to the National Education Association, those reasons contribute to why a fifth of new public school teachers leave within the first year and why half leave within five years.