Baby-Boom Children Will Swell California System, Analyst Says

By Michael Fallon — March 21, 1984 3 min read

Sacramento--California will need about 60,000 new elementary-school teachers and more than 1,200 new schools in the next decade to meet an enrollment surge that will be proportionately far greater in smaller counties than in metropolitan areas, a state researcher reports.

“It’s a state concern, but it’s a regional problem,” said James A. Fulton, a consultant to the State Department of Education. “The impact is going to be of a magnitude these smaller counties have never experienced.”

Mr. Fulton, in a report to the California Board of Education, forecast an eastern migration within California by young families--from high-cost housing areas near cities and the coast to the rural central valley and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Baby-Boom Offspring

Using population projections by the State Department of Finance, he estimated that California will have an additional 309,000 elementary students by 1987-88 and another 556,000 by 1992-93.

“The wave of the ‘baby boom’s baby boom’ (the children of men and women now in their 30’s, who had previously postponed having children) and children of recent immigrants will be cresting in our elementary schools throughout this decade,” Mr. Fulton’s report said.

It projected enrollment growth of 20 percent or more in 16 counties by 1987. Only two, San Bernadino and Riverside, are in southern California. The others are rural, foothill, or mountain counties in the northern and central parts of the state.

By Mr. Fulton’s calculations, elementary-school enrollments in Los Angeles County will increase 7.1 percent by 1987. Two counties, he predicted, will lose students--San Francisco, down 1.2 percent, and its affluent suburban county of Marin, down 9.4 percent.

“Generally speaking, the push is going to come where ... you don’t have any facilities to fall back on,” Mr. Fulton said.

He cited El Dorado, a not-heavily-populated county adjoining Sacramento that extends east and north through gold-rush foothills and the Sierra mountains to Lake Tahoe on the Nevada border. El Dorado’s elementary-school enrollment will increase 48.5 percent--6,000 students--by 1987, he said. “You’re talking roughly about 10 new schools and a cost of $35 million to $45 million.”

Mr. Fulton’s estimates California will need 25,000 additional elementary-level classrooms, or more than 1,200 new schools, by 1992, at a cost in excess of $5 billion.

In contrast to the growth foreseen at the elementary level, Mr. Fulton predicted that high-school enrollments will decline by 6 percent, or 71,000 students, by the end of the decade before they start rising again. But he said he nonetheless expected pockets of secondary-school enrollment growth in some of the mountain-foothill counties.

Despite the decline, he said, California will need new high-school teachers both to replace instructors who quit or retire and to meet minimum graduation requirements that first affect students scheduled to receive diplomas in 1987.

The report estimated that replacements must be found by 1992 for 32 percent of the instructors currently teaching high-school English, 35 percent of the foreign-language and science teachers, and 36 percent of the mathematics and social-studies teachers.

Demand Will Be Regional

There is a strong regional aspect to teacher supply and demand in California, the report suggested.

The survey, using current staffing ratios, found that California will be short 407 secondary science teachers next year. But the shortage does not exist in many places and is acute only in four southern California counties--Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange.

“We have focused so strongly on secondary schools recently that we have not seen that the elementary problem is bigger perhaps than people anticipated,” Mr. Fulton said.

He has estimated that California’s public elementary schools will need 60,000 new teachers over the next 10 years.

“The sleeper here is the private schools,” he said. “The private schools may be viewed as prime competitors for the teacher supply during this period. ... That pushes the total need for new teachers to closer to 70,000.”

California’s universities currently produce about 6,600 prospective teachers a year, indicating there could be as many as 66,000 applicants for state teaching credentials in the next decade.

However, the state also requires all prospective teachers to pass the California Basic Education Skills Test before they can obtain a teaching license. About 30 percent fail the first time they take it--a total that Mr. Fulton predicted will drop to an average of 10 to 15 percent.

Mr. Fulton said the problem of teacher shortages is “immediate and on us, and it’s going to get worse in the next two to three years. We’ve got to start acting on it immediately ... but we have the lead time to do it properly.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 1984 edition of Education Week as Baby-Boom Children Will Swell California System, Analyst Says