Layoffs during the recession. Low-paying positions. Fewer college students entering the profession. Political scrutiny. It’s a perfect storm for many metro Atlanta school districts, one that has created the highest number of teaching vacancies in recent years.
According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, thousands of metro Atlanta students started the school year without a permanent certified teacher in the classroom. That’s partially due to fewer people entering the profession — about 12,500 people received teaching certificates in Georgia in 2008, and by 2010, that number had dropped to 8,520.
To this reduction in certificates we can add teacher layoffs during the recession, stagnant pay and education budget cuts. It’s a pattern repeated around the country in states like California, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
In some cases, the shortage brings new opportunity to teachers who resigned under pressure. Even a voluntary resignation may not have been all that “voluntary.” Some teachers may have been in a position where they felt they had no choice but to resign.
In the past, situations like this were automatic black marks on good teachers who left for minor infractions. Breaking a contract or resignation is not the deal-breaker it might have been a few years ago.
For example, the Atlanta Public School District’s cheating scandal prompted a wave of zero-tolerance and occasionally rash decisions about teacher behavior related to test taking. While 11 APS educators were convicted in this scandal, it had a chilling effect on other school districts that affected many more teachers. In some cases, teachers resigned before they were fired because of what in another political climate might have been considered a minor infraction.
A few years ago, a teacher who resigned from one school district wouldn’t even consider applying for a certified position in another. That’s simply not the case anymore. Good teachers who want to get back into the classroom can use this current shortage to their advantage — and they should.
CNO’s Bettina Davies is a network attorney for PAGE, Professional Association of Georgia Educators. Call 770-528-0150 with questions about your rights as a teacher in Georgia.