State's shortage of teachers to worsen, school board says


All 24 of Maryland's school systems will face critical teacher shortages as they try to fill classrooms for next school year, the state school board said yesterday.

The board also increased the number of subject areas that qualify as being critically short of teachers - expanding the pool of students eligible to receive lucrative college scholarships.

Yesterday's action and announcement came as state officials confirmed earlier projections about the huge number of teachers that local school systems are expected to need to hire next summer - almost 10,500.

That projection is more than 1,500 teachers greater than the 8,700 teachers hired by local systems for this school year - and it's more than double the 4,600 teachers hired five years ago.

"This report confirms that the need is continuing to increase," said Lawrence E. Leak, assistant state superintendent for certification and accreditation.

The demand for teachers is increasing so quickly because of rising student enrollment, a growing number of "baby boom" teachers eligible for retirement and efforts to reduce class size.

Yesterday's annual "Maryland Teacher Staffing Report" also revealed that the number of teacher graduates from the state's colleges and universities declined by about 100 with the Class of 2000, down to 2,550.

"I happen to think the bottom line is money," said board member Jo Ann T. Bell. "Until we get the pay scale up, to me, that says a whole lot about why this number is going down.

"We need to start screaming about this," Bell said.

State officials agreed that teacher salaries are a problem but said that the number of graduates is expected to increase again during the next two years.

The subjects declared as critical shortage areas by the board include art, agriculture, computer science, English for non-native speakers, Spanish, math, earth science, space science, physical science, physics and special education.

College students studying to be teachers in those areas are eligible for Christa McAuliffe teacher education scholarships, which can be worth up to $10,000 per year.

By declaring critical teachers shortages across the state, the board made all 24 school systems eligible to rehire retired teachers and principals.

Under state laws approved by the General Assembly in 1999 and 2000, those retired teachers and principals are eligible to be rehired without losing their pension benefits - essentially permitting them to earn both their salaries and their retirement pay.

More than 500 have been rehired by local systems for the current school year, with almost 80 percent of those teachers going to Prince George's County.

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