An independent education group says its survey of American schools and education officials indicates there is no shortage of qualified teachers despite frequent talk to the contrary.
"The facts are that there is no teacher shortage," C. Emily Feistritzer of the National Center for Education Information said Tuesday.She said the group's "Teacher Supply and Demand Surveys 1988" report shows that not only is the alleged teacher shortage unsubstantiated, the teaching market was glutted, with some school districts maintaining large applicant lists.
The center's surveys, conducted June 28-Aug. 28, were directed at teacher certification and education offices across the nation, 75 school districts and more than 1,000 individuals who had been seeking teaching jobs.
The National Education Association disputed the results, with NEA spokesman Howard Carroll saying past NEA surveys indicated that vacancies reported during the summer months usually were not filled by new full-time hires in September.
"These school districts say they hired temporaries, or substitutes, reassigned teachers' aides, misassigned teachers, eliminate or reduce course offerings," he said. "We generally find that 20 percent of the schools will increase class size."
"This is merely a smokescreen to mask the hiring of temporaries and uncertified teachers," he said.
Feistritzer said the state boards maintained that all their teachers were certified and noted that many had a policy of placing all new hires on a probationary or temporary status.
She acknowledged that the surveys found a shortage in bilingual and special education teachers but ascribed the outcry over a teacher shortage partly to political considerations.
"As long as you keep presenting a crisis, you've got control over what happens to solve it," she said. "And I do think the unions have held onto this prediction - it does give them control over who gets into the profession."
The center's surveys also found that teachers are not leaving the profession at the rate predicted and many who left the field are trying to re-enter. It cited American Federation of Teachers data showing a decrease in retirements from 2.4 percent in 1985-86 to 2.2 percent in 1986-87. AFT figures also indicated that 53 percent of new hires in 1987-88 were re-entering teachers, up from the 50 percent in 1986-87.
Data from the school districts indicate that recent college graduates comprise 50 percent to 60 percent of applicants for teaching positions, at least 20 percent are former teachers trying to re-enter the field or are substitute or part-time teachers seeking full-time status.