Teacher Shortage No Joke
There is a crisis in the country, said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a live broadcast at NBC's Education Nation today.
"We need more teachers in schools," he said from the stage of NBC's comedy sketch program Saturday Night LIve. The stage, which normally looks like Grand Central Station, took on a more serious look and feel for the education conference.
Seated with Duncan was NBC newscaster Tom Brokaw. Together they took questions from the audience of education experts as well as from college students in Florida, Arizona, and Washington, D.C., via satellite.
The room was cold and industrial looking except for the stage, which was a blaze of lights.
Secretary Duncan began his remarks with a plea to the college students listening via satellite: please consider becoming teachers!
"We are going to travel the country to recruit the next generation of teachers," he said. "This is going to be the largest teacher recruiting effort ever in this country."
Math and science teachers are especially needed, he continued. He also made a plea for more men and minorities to get into the profession. He called on the education departments at colleges to work on recruiting more teaching candidates.
Teachers need to be valued more in this society, he said. This happens when you pay teachers more and when you understand that teaching is the most important job in the country.
I got to talk to Secretary Duncan after the press conference. I asked him about paying teachers more.
"People have been saying that for years," I said. "Realistically, how are you going to that?"
He had a ready—and passionate—answer, at least for providing incentives for college students to get education degrees.
"With 10 years of public service, all your college loans are forgiven," he said. " Up to that point, it's reduced to 50 percent of your income. That's a huge, huge financial incentive."
He also pointed out that all of the work can't be done by the Department of Education, or the administrators, or even the teachers. It's a community problem with a community solution.
"We have to promote parental engagement," he said. "Schools have to be open longer hours. They have to open up their doors more to the community."
PHOTO: Kid Reporter Kenny Figueroa at a press conference with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan