New York public schools facing extreme teacher shortage, thousands new student teachers needed

Oswego, N.Y. – Public schools in New York are facing a steep teacher retirement rate in upcoming years. Over 50,000 job vacancies in public schools all over the country are leaving schools understaffed, which can have detrimental effects on students. 

Superintendent of Honeoye Central School Bridget Ashton believes the shift in the teaching standard over the last decade has affected educators’ ability to teach effectively. Curriculum restrictions, students’ emotional needs, and the education profession being less admirable are discouraging learners from getting into the workforce.   

“It’s about how we prepare young people to be citizens and active members of society,” said Ashton. “It’s always been a cherished, revered profession in so many ways and I would say that the climate is a little bit different around public education [today].”

Since the atmosphere around the teaching profession has changed significantly in the last decade, it is more challenging to build a positive rapport for teaching and therefore recruit more quality teachers. Shortages in certain areas can leave students unsupported both socially and emotionally.

“The mission of the school district is about education outcomes for kids to have their college and career life ready, we can’t get to that teaching and learning if students aren’t supported in their mental health,” said Ashton. 

Striving to get academic outcomes for kids, and engaging learners while addressing and supporting students’ needs makes it challenging for educators to effectively do their jobs.

Sebastian Bushnell, an adolescent education major at SUNY Oswego with a concentration in English, believes the reason students don’t want to become teachers anymore is because of all the restrictions put on the profession in the last decade. Banning instruction related to gender identity and sexual orientation is the biggest one. 

“[There’s] so many laws preventing teachers from being human and accepting,” said Bushnell. 

Another challenge Bushnell has run into while completing his student teaching certification is the financial burden. He says he has to pay out of pocket for required New York state certification exams, fingerprinting, Dignity for All Students Act training, and gas to drive to his student teaching placement. 

Bushnell is currently in the second year of his placement and is observing a teacher at Red Creek High School. Bushnell’s placement teacher was formally retired, and because of the teacher shortage, came out of retirement. 

In addition to the restrictions and financial burden, New York public school teachers make around $48,979 to $71,547 a year. Bushnell says for this reason, many current teachers have tried to sway his decision about going into the education field.

“Some of them have been like oh you know it’s really tough pay-wise, some of them told me to reconsider! And some of them have told me to stick with it because it actually gets a lot better,” said Bushnell. 

Bushnell and Ashton both agree that the teaching profession can be extremely daunting to get into, and the current pathway to getting certified isn’t easy to follow. National and state trends have shown that fewer student teachers are going through preparation programs, being certified, and being available to teach in schools. 

With New York public schools needing about 180,000 new teachers over the next decade, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says she has a plan to provide incentives to attract more teachers and school workers. Accelerating the teacher certification process, providing learning and mental health grants, creating a state teacher residency program, and providing schools with billions of dollars by fully funding Foundation Aid are some examples. 

To help increase the number of teachers going through the certification process, Ashton says there’s also an advocacy group of superintendents trying to come up with creative ways of making the profession more admirable and attainable. 

“We’re interested in exploring what other configurations there are for young people who finish with a bachelor’s and different pathways by which to complete those requirements,” said Ashton. 

New York is one of the only states that require a master’s degree to become a teacher, and Ashton’s group is calling for more flexibility and reciprocity for teaching degrees and experience from other states so teachers can easily transfer to New York. Additionally, they are working towards a teacher apprenticeship program where student teachers can earn credit toward a degree program while working in the field. 

At the end of the day, educators want to create a fulfilling, safe, and comfortable environment for students to grow, but with immense teacher shortages and unqualified teachers, it’s incredibly difficult for teachers to create that environment for their students.  

“[Teaching] is fun, it’s rewarding, it’s so fulfilling. And no matter how many hurdles you have to jump through or rings of fire… once you get into the classroom you’ll see,” said Bushnell. “And it’s tiring and it’s hard work, but to be able to have a part in building a more successful future, it is good!”