The state as a whole is experiencing a shortage of teachers, but Latino teachers are in particularly short supply. One major obstacle to boosting their numbers is starkly visible in these figures from Sonoma State University’s School of Education, the biggest local source of teachers.
Last year, 15 Latino students completed the teacher credential program, out of 191 students.
In the previous year, 2013-2014, there were 10 Latino students out of 237 credential candidates who completed the program.
Also, because of a lack of applicants, the last students to go through the school’s bilingual credential program graduated in 2009.
“We’ve sort of lost our pipeline of bilingual teachers, and obviously many of those teachers would be Latino or Latina,” said Esmeralda Sanchez Moseley, principal of the Spanish-English dual immersion elementary school in Agua Caliente.
“When I look at the applicants I see coming into our education program, that’s what I see,” said Carlos Ayala, the school’s dean, referring to the low numbers of Latino teachers in Sonoma County.
In part, it’s a circular problem, he said. Too few Latino teachers mean too few Latino students grow up seeing themselves as teachers and pursuing the profession.
But Ayala and others say the cost of Sonoma State’s and other credential programs is probably an equal factor. SSU’s program costs upward of $12,000 a year.
“I’d never seen $10,000 before because that’s what my parents make in a year,” said Elsie Allen High School Spanish teacher Ricardo Alcala, referring to his undergraduate tuition costs. “And all of a sudden I have to go to the credential program and take out more student loans — you see the impact of that?”
He said scholarships were the only thing that got him through undergraduate and graduate degrees, and the only reason he was able to pursue his credential was generous in-laws.
Ayala has started a program called La Promesa to interest high school students who would be the first in their family to go to college in becoming teachers, and provide them financial support. Also, the school recruited a tenure-track faculty member with dual language expertise.
Another challenge, Ayala said, is that many potential and otherwise qualified Latino credential candidates who were English language learners tend not to do as well on the standardized tests needed for admission.
“I have five Latino students — two from SSU, one from Davis and two from another CSU — they want to give back to their community, they want to teach, they want to live locally, and they’re struggling” with the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, he said.
“These folks have degrees, these folks are going to be great teachers, but there are these obstacles put in front of them that have nothing to do with how good a teacher they will be,” he said.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the cost of Sonoma State University’s teacher credentialing program.