According to the U.S. Department of Education, if you are a teacher of math, science, language or any other field in which the state where you are teaching has officially declared that there is a shortage of teachers, you may be eligible to have up to 100 percent of your Federal Perkins Loan canceled. Other education majors may defer their loan repayment if they choose to work in an area where there is an officially designated teacher shortage. Federal TEACH grants are also available for people who commit to becoming full-time teachers in underserved areas.
Student loan cancellations and grants are only two of the the benefits of working as a teacher in an area where there is an official shortage of teachers. Oftentimes, teachers who accept jobs in states or cities where there are teacher shortages enjoy higher job security and sometimes a higher rate of pay. Furthermore, for individuals who like a professional challenge, areas that have teacher shortages are often either inner city schools, where students need the very best teachers they can get, or rural areas, where rural poverty often robs children of the educational opportunities that they deserve. For any of these reasons, becoming a teacher in an area where there is a teacher shortage can be very beneficial.
Which areas of the United States have the highest teacher shortages? Here’s a list of five places to consider.
1. Tulsa, Oklahoma
In December 2012, during the middle of the academic school year, the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) had 40 openings. More than half of those job openings were for teachers. TPS isn’t the only Oklahoma school district that’s short of teachers; Union Public Schools (UPS) in southeast Tulsa is also facing a shortage as are other school districts in the Green Country region where Tulsa is located.
According to the local Tulsa NBC television news station, the reason for the teacher shortage in the Tulsa area is that the pay is a good deal lower than comparable positions in nearby regions. In Arkansas and Texas, for instance, starting salaries for teachers are approximately $12,000 to $15,000 higher than they are in Tulsa.
2. South Carolina
Across the state of South Carolina, teacher demand outstrips teacher supply. In 2010, the state had the opposite problem; the recession forced the state to lay off many teachers. Two years later, South Carolina was unable to recruit a sufficient number of teachers to fill openings. In fact, new hires went up 64 percent between 2010 and 2012. In South Carolina, math, science, language arts, English and special education are the areas in which the shortages are highest.
According to Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC, the state of South Carolina loses an average of 5,200 teachers each year for various reasons; by contrast, the state graduates only 2,000 education majors per year. In South Carolina, most of the hardest-hit areas are rural districts.
Mississippi is another southern, largely rural state that is currently experiencing a serious teacher shortage. As of January 2013, there was a statewide shortage of 2,400 teachers, according to Channel 12 News of Jackson, MS.
The two fields with the highest need in Mississippi are math and science. The geographic region with the highest need is the Mississippi Delta region. This historically poor and rural region has been nicknamed “the most Southern place on Earth,” referring not to its location but to its history and its culture. At one point, the Delta was a rich, cotton-growing area; since the Civil War, however, the
region has been plagued by extreme poverty and racism. For years, organizations like Teach for America have attempted to break the cycle of poverty in the Delta by providing well-educated teachers from other regions.
The shortage of teachers in Mississippi, like the shortage in Oklahoma, can be traced back to low pay. Within the Southeast, Mississippi offers the lowest pay for teachers.
The state of California is another place where teachers were laid off in large numbers during the worst years of the recession. Today, however, experts in California predict that a major teacher shortfall is on its way for the state. In the three years between 2006 and 2009, students enrolled in education programs at California universities dropped by a whopping 40 percent. In the last three years, enrollment numbers haven’t gotten much better.
In California, the fields with the two largest shortages are special education and teachers of children who are learning English as a second language. California is likely to experience shortages in many other fields in the near future.
5. Dallas and Austin, Texas
Dallas is the ninth largest city in the United States; Austin is capital city of Texas. Both cities face teacher shortages. Unlike several of the other places mentioned here, Texas teachers earn a good wage; the average salary of a teacher in Texas is $55,000 per year, which is 20 percent higher than the national average. Furthermore, the Dallas school district is a surprisingly good one. Some of their magnet schools are rated as being the best in the country. Austin, meanwhile, has been ranked as the number two city in the country for raising a family and the city’s unofficial slogan is “the live music capital of the world.”
These two cities have teacher shortages not so much because they are difficult places to teach but just because they are growing so quickly.
Teaching is never an easy job, but it can be incredibly rewarding when teachers have the opportunity to watch students progress and grow despite difficult circumstances. While it’s true that the pay isn’t always as good for teachers as it is for other professions and that the job is demanding and increasingly difficult, nevertheless good teachers continue to make a difference in the lives of young people and help create a brighter future both for their students and their communities. When teachers choose to teach in one of the underserved areas mentioned above, it’s not about the money for them: It’s about the love of teaching.