Enrollment Projections Suggest Teacher Shortage in Late 1980's

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Total enrollment in public and private elementary and secondary schools will rise in the latter part of this decade, possibly resulting in a severe teacher shortage by the late 1980's unless enrollment in teacher-training programs rises, government statisticians suggest.

According to projections contained in a new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (nces), a gradual increase in elementary- and secondary-school enrollments beginning in 1985 will continue into the 1990's, resulting in an enrollment boom that by the turn of the century may surpass the peak levels of the early 1970's.

Enrollment in elementary and secondary schools decreased steadily from a peak of 51.3 million in 1971 to 46.1 million in 1980, the report states. But enrollment will increase again to 46.7 million by 1990, according to nces

The report also cites the longer-range projection of one nces official that enrollments may reach 52.1 million by the year 2000, surpassing the 1970 peak of 51.3 million.

(Last week, the Census Bureau released a report predicting that the number of children aged 5 to 13 will increase from 30.7 million in 1981 to 34.4 million in 1995. The report also predicts that the number of children of secondary-school age will increase from 14.9 million in 1981, following a steady decrease throughout the 1980's, to 15.4 million in the year 2000.)

Information used in the nces report also came from the Bureau of the Census. A full discussion of the report's methodology is available in a separate volume.

The nces projection reflects the growth in the 5-to-17-year-old population that is expected to begin in 1984, following the upswing in the annual birthrate that demographers have noted in the last few years.

Increase in Teachers

The number of classroom teachers increased from 2.29 million in 1970 to 2.49 million in 1977, despite the large enrollment decline that occurred during the same period. Initial enrollment declines often merely relieved overcrowding in schools, the report explains, and at the same time additional teachers were hired to comply with special-education laws enacted in the mid-1970's.

But continuing financial difficulties and enrollment declines eventually reduced the total number of full-time teachers from a high of 2.49 million in 1977 to 2.44 million in 1980, according to nces

That number will reach its lowest point of about 2.38 million in 1984, the report states, but when enrollments begin climbing again in the late 1980's the number of classroom teachers needed will again increase, reaching a projected new record total of 2.64 million in 1990.

The enrollment growth may combine with a falling number of education-school graduates to produce a severe teacher shortage, the report states.

From 1970 to 1980, when there was generally a large oversupply of teachers, the annual supply of new education-school graduates dropped from 284,000 to 159,000.

The report predicts that the teacher supply-and-demand situation will be similar to that experienced between 1965 and 1969, when the demand for new teachers averaged 224,000 per year, while the supply of new teaching graduates averaged 230,000 per year.

In 1980, students majoring in education constituted 17 percent of all those receiving bachelor's degrees. If the proportion of prospective teachers in graduating classes does not increase from that level, according to the report, then the supply of new teachers will average only about 160,000 per year, making new shortages likely.

The report, Projections of Education Statistics to 1990-1991, also predicts:

Increases in the average salaries of teachers. In "real dollars," the report states, teachers' salaries decreased by more than 14 percent during the 1970's, from $20,168 in 1970-1971 to $17,264 in 1980-1981.

As the demand for teachers increases in the 1980's, salaries will rise. By 1990-91, teacher salaries are expected to average about $20,000 in 1980-1981 dollars.

An increase in total expenditures (in 1980-81 dollars) for all public and private elementary and secondary schools from $117.9 billion in 1980-81 to $138.8 billion in 1990-91. Total expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools (in 1980-81 dollars), should reach $116.4 billion in 1990-1991, up from $96.8 billion in 1980-81, the report says.

A slight increase in private schools' share of total enrollment, which should increase from the 1980 level of 5.1 million to 5.4 million in 1990. At this level, the report states, private schools will have 11.6 percent of the total enrollment, compared to 11.1 percent in 1980 and 10.5 percent in 1970.

An increase in public elementary and secondary enrollment from 41 million in 1980 to 41.3 million in 1990. This figure was 45.9 million in 1970, the report states.

A decrease in the total number of high- school graduates, from 3.1 million in 1979-1980 to 2.4 million in 1990-91, as a result of the 20-percent decrease in the number of 18-year-olds over the decade. All of the decrease in graduation rates will occur in the public schools, according to the report. The number of private-high-school graduates is projected to remain stable at 300,000 per year during this period.

The report notes that the decline in the number of students graduating from high school "has been more than offset" by increasing numbers of students attaining high-school-equivalency credentials. The number of students receiving such credentials increased by 90 percent in the 1970's and should increase by another 23.6 percent, to 560,000 a year, by 1990.

Copies of the report are available for $6 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Order #065-000-00144-6.

Vol. 02, Issue 11

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