February 19, 2009
College seniors’ teaching prospects uncertain
Open positions will be all the more competitive with schools across state laying off teachers
As school districts across New York state discuss laying off teachers, college seniors who plan to become teachers are left wondering what is coming.
“There is definitely concern right now that job openings will be down,” said John Shirley, career services director at SUNY Cortland. “We think there are still openings out there, they just will be more competitive.”
Rena Janke, coordinator of adolescence education for the college’s future science teachers, is afraid teaching jobs will become scarce just as teachers are needed most.
“Nationwide, there is a shortage of science and math teachers, so they will be less at risk than others,” she said. “But I’m receiving e-mails from first-year teachers (alumni) who have been informed their positions will be cut. The younger teachers are being sacrificed, even in math and the sciences.”
Gov. David Paterson’s 2009-10 state budget proposal cuts aid to districts by an average of 3 percent. As they try to balance their budgets, districts are talking about teacher layoffs.
New York State United Teachers, the statewide teachers’ union, says New York City may lay off as many as 15,000 teachers while Long Island districts could cut 3,400 jobs. The Yonkers city district projects 600 layoffs.
Locally, all Cortland County school districts are talking about potential layoffs.
Shirley said fewer districts are coming to SUNY Cortland’s Teacher Recruitment Days in April, due to not having openings or not having travel budgets.
Schools from all over the nation come to the college, especially schools from the South.
Shirley said jobs have been more plentiful in the past few years as Baby Boomers retire from the teaching ranks. The openings have occurred in clusters.
Janke said about half of the nation’s teachers will be eligible to retire in the next six years, but may not if last fall’s problems on Wall Street hurt teachers’ retirement accounts.
Shirley said SUNY Cortland students may have to move to other states to find jobs, which will disrupt those who had planned to move back to their hometowns after graduation.
“You can go home and substitute teach until something opens,” he said. “But we’re seeing more students who are packing up and moving with a couple of friends, to places like Arizona. Schools think that if you have local ties, like family or friends, you will be likely to stay. I know the Cartwright district in Arizona visited our campus last fall, and we’ve had students move there in pairs.”
Janke said the layoffs will hurt people who have trained to become teachers after being laid off in previous careers. One of her former students was a man with a PhD in chemistry who was laid off by a Binghamton company and became a high school chemistry teacher.
Janke thought students in two of SUNY Cortland’s bigger majors, physical education and childhood education, might struggle more than others because of the large number of them.
Mike Kniffin, a physical education professor, said his department is not certain about the challenges its seniors face.
“Finding a job is always a concern for students,” he said.
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