A good teacher is getting harder to find when it comes to filling vacancies in science, foreign language and special education.
And the shortages are particularly acute in the inner city and in poor rural districts, says an annual report presented to the state school board yesterday.
In a continuing trend that troubles education officials, Maryland reported a projected shortage of 336 teachers this school year -- jobs without qualified applicants to fill them -- up from 256 last year.
The 50-page report by the state Department of Education provided no breakdown for the shortages in specific districts but said Baltimore City, Allegany, Caroline, Garrett and Somerset counties faced "extraordinary shortages."
The report directly linked funding to a district's attractiveness to teachers, noting that wealthier districts offer better pay and benefits, smaller classes and more and better school buildings, supplies and equipment.
Maryland's shortages reflect those faced by school systems throughout the nation, as more and more college graduates bypass teaching for more lucrative careers in private industry, particularly in technical fields.
Lorretta Johnson, co-president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, said the report's findings came as no surprise. She predicted that the shortage in the city will worsen as more teachers seek jobs in wealthier districts with fewer problems such as violence and teen pregnancy.
"Teachers just don't want to come here because of the salary, because of the urban schools with urban problems," she said.
Teachers' salaries in the cash-strapped Baltimore system range from $22,605 for beginning teachers with bachelor's degrees to $46,500 for those with doctorates and 25 years experience, among the lowest in the state.
In Maryland and elsewhere, schools have increasingly turned to filling teaching slots with candidates who have no education degrees. In the city, for example, such candidates have filled more than 120 slots.
Yesterday's report, required by state law, is the ninth annual assessment of teacher supply and demand and is used to administer a scholarship program intended to help relieve the shortages.
Statewide, the report found the greatest shortages in special education, where 191 jobs went unfilled for lack of qualified candidates, followed by science, 54, and foreign languages, 41.
Maryland school districts were expected to hire 2,947 teachers for this school year, down slightly from the previous year.
The state's public schools employ about 44,500 teachers.
The report also showed increases in the pool of candidates for some specialties, where the supply outstrips demand. These include early childhood education, art and mathematics.
Minority hiring is on the upswing, a product of aggressive efforts to increase the number of minority teachers, the report said.
Minorities made up 20 percent of all teacher hires statewide in 1992, up from 14 percent in 1989, the report said. But the proportion of minority staff in state public schools, 21.4 percent, still falls well below the 40 percent minority population among students.