The job market for teachers in Ohio is tough, but not entirely impossible to overcome, local and state education officials say.
While other states such as North Carolina and Florida are in demand of teachers at all levels, Ohio’s teaching market is much more selective due to a statewide funding crisis for public schools and because districts are cutting more than in past years.
“The shortage that was prevalent for some years has been temporarily eased by the fact that so many districts are cutting,” said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.
Because of the state’s failure to fix public education’s ongoing funding problem, Mooney said, school districts in Ohio do not have as many teaching vacancies as they did about five years ago. Mooney said charter schools and education vouchers have also taken funding hits, which shows how problematic the situation has become.
“The state is afflicting this pain,” Mooney said. “They not only didn’t fix the system, they’ve made it worse,” he said.
Such is the case for Toledo Public Schools, said Clinton Faulkner, executive assistant to the superintendent for human resources. The district is reducing its elementary staff for the third time in as many years due to state funding problems and a declining enrollment, he said. A limited number of positions are open at the secondary level in math, science, foreign languages and special education.
Fiona MacKinnon, associate dean of the college of education at BGSU, said her staff alerts students to what areas have the most demand when they are selecting a major and teaching level. She said early childhood and social studies at the secondary level are areas that prospective teachers find the hardest to land jobs in.
Though telling prospective teachers what areas in demand the most is helpful, that doesn’t mean those subjects or levels attract the most teaching students, said Beth Nicholson, interim director of career services at UT.
People go into the field of education they are most interested in, not what areas are in the most demand, Nicholson said.
“It’s not as simple as supply and demand,” she said. “A student goes there their passion lies.”
Though the outlook in Ohio is overall a grim one for teaching prospects, it is not completely hopeless. According to a 1999 report produced by the National Center for Education Statistics, the projected number of newly hired public school teachers needed by 2008-09 ranged from 1.7 million to 2.7 million.
MacKinnon said there is plenty of hope for talented individuals who are dedicated to helping young people.
“If you’re really excellent and outstanding, there always seems to be a demand for people who are really talented and can sell themselves,” she said.
Attracting people to teaching is not a problem, Mooney said, but keeping them in the field is. He said teaching’s unprofessional working conditions, low compensation and lack of instructional flexibility draw many people out of the profession within a few years. Fifty percent of all teachers exit the field within five years, he said; in urban districts, that number is even higher.
“We don’t really have a recruitment problem,” Mooney said. “We don’t have a shortage of people signing up to try their hand at teaching coming out of college, we have a huge attrition problem.”