U.S. classrooms will face a severe shortage of teachers within the next decade as more baby boomers retire, necessitating an urgent push to recruit young people to the profession, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday.
The new campaign, which is outlined at the Teach.gov website, aims to recruit a million new teachers over the next five years. The greatest emphasis will be on finding math, science and special education teachers, as well as men of color.
“If you look across the country today and put black males and Hispanic males together, it’s 3.5 percent of the teacher workforce,” Duncan said in an interview with Tom Brokaw as part of NBC’s Education Nation summit. “If we’re serious about having young men aspire to go to college, we have to put men in their lives.”
Education officials will be visiting high schools and colleges around the country to encourage students to consider teaching. Duncan said the dire need for good teachers, which he referred to as “the civil rights issue of our generation,” is reflected in the nation’s drop-out rate.
“We lose almost a million students from our high schools each year to the streets,” Duncan said.
Duncan said paying teachers more is a first step in giving the profession the respect it deserves. “There are so many phenomenal people who had education in their heart; it was their passion,” he said. “But they couldn’t afford to go into teaching.”
To retain and recruit quality teachers, the Department of Education will be offering a variety of incentives, including education grants, grants for those who choose to work in impoverished areas and what Duncan called “income-based repayment” -- a guarantee that after 10 years of teaching, all college debt will be forgiven.
Talking to students from several universities across the country via a live feed, Duncan said that bad economic news should not deter students from applying to be teachers.
“There are a couple thousand teacher jobs today, and in January we have another set of folks retiring,” he said.
U.S. students rank ninth globally for holding a college degree, something Duncan hopes to improve.
“Five years from now, I would love to have the best teaching workforce in the world,” he said. “Education is the answer.”