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California sees fewer teachers as enrollment trends up

LOS ANGELES — Years of pink slips have taken a toll on California's teachers to be sure, but the dim job market has also had an impact on people wanting to become teachers at a time when the state's population of children reaching school age is rising.

While the numbers do not yet signal an outright teacher shortage, officials say they point to a worrisome trend of a graying workforce and fewer entrants into what has traditionally been one of the bulwark professions of the middle class.

"We've been worrying about this for a while," said Juliet Tiffany-Morales, research analyst for SRI International who has studied education trends. "A shortage could materialize. There's definitely a smaller pool of people going into teaching."

So far, the profession is holding its own because school districts have increased class sizes to cope with teacher layoffs, and the number of retiring teachers has more or less equaled the number of new teachers, Tiffany-Morales said. Both figure in the 15,000 to 20,000 range.

But a pinch could arise with a predicted steady rise of 1.4 percent in the state's population of school-age children over the next decade, a new transitional kindergarten grade for 4-year-olds that went into effect this fall and the introduction of national curriculum standards which will require retraining that some older teachers may not opt for.


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