Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years
By WINNIE HU Published: May 19, 2010
PELHAM, N.Y. — In the month since Pelham Memorial High School in Westchester County advertised seven teaching jobs, it has been flooded with 3,010 applications from candidates as far away as California. The Port Washington District on Long Island is sorting through 3,620 applications for eight positions — the largest pool the superintendent has seen in his 41-year career.
Even hard-to-fill specialties are no longer so hard to fill. Jericho, N.Y., has 963 people to choose from for five spots in special education, more than twice as many as in past years. In Connecticut, chemistry and physics jobs in Hartford that normally attract no more than 5 candidates have 110 and 51, respectively.
The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.
Even upscale suburban districts are preparing for huge levels of layoffs. School officials and union leaders estimate that more than 150,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs next year, far more than any other time, including the last major financial crisis of the 1970s.
Juliana Pankow, who just graduated from Teachers College at Columbia University, has sent out 40 résumés since January. A few Saturdays ago, she went to a school in Harlem because she heard the principal would be there (she was invited back to teach a demonstration lesson, but it may be for naught since the city has a hiring freeze). Now, Ms. Pankow said she might have to move back in with her parents in Scarsdale, N.Y., and perhaps take up SAT tutoring.
“I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do,” said Ms. Pankow, 23, as she waited outside the principal’s office at Pelham Memorial last week, among 619 people applying for one English position. “Which is a problem, because I might have to do something else.”
At Teachers College, so many students like Ms. Pankow are looking for work that two recent job fairs attracted a record 650 students and alumni, up from 450 last year. Last month, the college added a job fair focusing on schools in Harlem.
But job postings are down by half this year, to one dozen to two dozen a week, mostly in charter schools, said Marianne Tramelli, the college’s director of career services.
Charter schools, which are publicly financed but independently run, are practically the only ones hiring in New York and elsewhere because of growing enrollments amid expanding political and economic support for school choice. Even so, they do not have nearly enough jobs to go around.
In New York, where the Success Charter Network is hiring 135 teachers for its seven schools in Harlem and the Bronx, some of the 8,453 applicants have called the office three times a day to check on their status. Veteran teachers have also offered to work as assistant teachers.