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As Students Go Back to School, Shortage of Teachers Causes Concern

The demand for educators in math, science and special education is especially high, and schools are facing vacancies.
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It’s that time of the year again when thousands of kids across the country prepare to end their summer break and head back to school.

But will there be enough teachers to educate them?

Maybe not in Dekalb County, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, where there are 130 vacancies for full-time teachers.

The demand is especially high for teachers in math, science and special education classes.

"The supply for teachers who have expertise in those areas has dwindled," said Dr. Stephen Green, superintendent of the Dekalb County School District. "And so, we’re in a frantic competition to attract and retain teachers who have that expertise."

And that’s a growing trend nationwide, especially in large urban school districts. The problem of teacher shortages is even greater in California, which is desperate to fill some 21,000 teacher positions before the school year begins.

In California alone, some 80,000 teaching jobs were eliminated between 2008 and 2012, according to the Labor Department.

Experts say that’s one main reason why teaching hasn’t been as appealing to those seeking work as educators.

"I think in recent years teaching became a much less attractive profession for people to go into," said Linda Darling Hammond, professor emeritus at Stanford University. "It was partly because of the layoffs that were widespread."

And crowded classrooms may not be the only downside of a teacher shortage.

"We are beginning to see places hire teaches who are not certified, who have not started any training at all for teaching," Hammond said. "It’s coming back because the supply is so limited."

In Philadelphia, developers are getting creative by creating housing specifically designed to attract educators to live there. Teachers get a 25% discount off the market rate, saving up to $400 in rent.

"It made our decision a lot easier," said teacher Katie Rauchut. "We’re not millionaires. We’re teachers."