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James Kirylo: We Saw the Teacher Shortage Coming.

September 25, 2022

The following is a guest post by friend and colleague James Kirylo. I know Kirylo from his many years as an education professor at Southeastern Louisiana University. He is the author of The Thoughtful Teacher: Making Connections with a Diverse Student Population. Kirylo currently resides in South Carolina.

James Kirylo

We Saw the Teacher Shortage Coming: Here’s Why

James D. Kirylo

We saw it coming. Despite educators repeatedly sounding the proverbial school alarm bell about the possibilities of a teacher shortage crises, these warnings were often ignored or dismissed by policy-makers. As a result, the alarm alerts came to a palpable head in 2018-2019, captured in the book Slaying Goliath by Diane Ravitch.

A historian of education and former assistant secretary of education during the George H.W. Bush administration, Ravitch highlights an unusual moment in the history of the U.S. when tens of thousands of teachers across the country took to the streets and marched to respective state capitols.

As former long-time K-12 teacher and currently a professor of education with a research focus on teacher education, I was in that number in Columbia, SC.

What were we protesting? The obsession with a test-centric schooling environment, punitive evaluation systems, low pay, overcrowded classrooms, school buildings wrought with neglect, outdated textbooks, poor working conditions, ill-informed attacks on tenure, the ongoing defunding of public education, the undermining of teacher professionalism, and the constant assault on public school teachers, among other concerns, which Ravitch captures in her text. In short, the profession finds itself in unprecedented space with teacher satisfaction at an all-time low.

And despite that worrisome space, many teachers have heroically pressed on, even during the most difficult dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, still numerous others have understandably called it a day and have left the profession, coupled with a significant drop in applicants to teacher preparation institutions. Hence, the teacher shortage is real. But make no mistake, this shortage is a symptom, a manifestation of a metastasized malignancy: the eroding of the profession itself through a political climate that disrespects educators.

Instead of attentively responding to the alarm bell and working toward building up the profession, policy makers all over the country have intensified the problem by questioning whether educators actually need a college degree; have relaxed state certification requirements; have long encouraged speedy, minimal training before one enters the classroom, exacerbating the attrition rate; have allowed for dictatorial, mayoral control of school systems; have appointed unqualified, unprepared, and unfit individuals for U.S. Secretary of Education; have allowed the persistence of overcrowded classrooms and outdated facilities to persist, disproportionally affecting the poor; and have fostered the politicization of education in such a way that attacks teachers, ultimately threatening the future of public education.

I often wonder of those who have worked to decay the teaching profession if they would rationalize having an underqualified, and-not-yet an MD performing major surgery on one’s child, or employing a non-licensed, inexperienced attorney to take the lead in a grave legal proceeding, or requesting the services of a fast-track-schooled, unproven mechanic to work on the faulty brakes of an automobile.

Consider the upcoming November general elections in South Carolina when voters will elect a new state superintendent of education, one of few states in which this is an elected position. Ellen Weaver, who appears to be a leading candidate, holds no degree in education, has never been a teacher or school administrator, and does not possess an advanced degree that is required by law to be SC state superintendent. She is literally unqualified. Enter in historically controversial Bob Jones University where she hurriedly enrolled in April and just a few short months later, Weaver purportedly will have a master’s degree in hand by election time.

Weaver’s campaign coffers run deep with support from very wealthy philanthropists. She refers to herself as a “Rush Baby,” meaning as a child she listened to the late conservative radio host, Rush Limbaugh, who influentially indoctrinated his large audience by manipulating truth, spreading disinformation, and irresponsibly promoted conspiracies.

As part of her platform, however, if not ironically—with a fear-mongering tone—Weaver aims to make sure schools are not places of indoctrination, rejected mandated mask wearing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ardently supports the public funding for private education, and purports a desire to listen to the voices of educators.

While all politics is local, national implications always hover. Educators across our country have spoken loudly—for years. Time after time, whether it is in South Carolina or any other state, educators are tired– very tired– of the hubris that rationalizes, whitewashes, and make excuses for the non-qualified, non-credentialed, inexperienced, unproven, and unprepared to teach our youth, to lead our schools, and to lead entire systems.

It is that hubris that has led us to the teacher staffing crisis our nation faces today.

Wanted: Teachers. No Training Necessary.

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3 Comments
  1. Daedalus permalink

    Well, I saw the teacher shortage coming almost 40 years ago. You see, I was a teacher (high school level).

  2. Linda permalink

    Starvation of funding for and, disparagement of government, along with
    usurpation of government policy making has been oligarchy’s plot for some time. Paul Weyrich, co-founder of ALEC, the religious right and Heritage was funded by Koch. Weyrich’s training manual, specifically his scheme relative to public schools, can be found at Theocracy Watch. A couple of years ago, Gates funded a study at Georgetown University (Catholic) that found greater religiosity was linked to inclination toward authoritarianism.

    The Journal, a digital-promoting site posted, 3-16-2020,”Science of Reading (finally) Becoming Mainstream in Teacher Prep Programs.” Recently, Diane Ravitch posted about the on-line reading program. The Journal article identified 15 colleges in order to corroborate its headline. More than half are in former slave owning states.

    When the Gates Frontier Set program aimed at control of curriculum and delivery, was described in the press, it was inescapable to note that there were a preponderance of financially strapped HBCU’s in the program. Mercedes identified in one of her posts, the Gates-funded Roland Fryer’s preference for a two-tier testing system. The charter school campaign targeted inner cities.
    The picture forming in my mind of right wing (and, pseudo left) alliances and motivations is not pretty.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. James Kirylo: How to Destroy South Carolina’s Underfunded Public Schools | Diane Ravitch's blog

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