South-Western College Publishing - Economics  
School's Out - of Teachers?
Subject Equilibrium and disequilibrium
Topic Equilibrium / Labor Markets
Key Words Shortage, vacancies, recruitment, licenses, shortfall
News Story

There is a debate over whether there is a teacher shortage. On one side, the Center for Educational Information (CEI), argues that there is an overabundance of teachers. Their survey of 1,354 institutions of higher education showed that more than 200,000 teachers were produced in 1998, up 49 percent since 1983. They were supplemented by tens of thousands returning to teaching and moving to the public schools from the private sector. These teachers far outweighed the vacancies, except in some inner cities and rural areas. The CEI suggests that jobs and teachers need to be matched better through wider recruitment and by allowing licenses to be accepted in other regions.

On the other side, the U.S. Department of Education says that there will be a shortfall of 2.2 million teachers over the next decade due to retirements and growing student enrollments. On a continuing basis, about 22 percent of teachers leave the profession within three years. There are particular shortage problems in science, math, special education, bilingual education, and foreign languages...

(Updated November 1, 1999)

1. a. Draw a diagram with axes showing wage rates and employment levels. Add the demand curve and the supply curve for 1983. Mark the equilibrium wage rate and the equilibrium level of employment.
  b. Show the effect on the curves of colleges and universities producing 49 percent more teachers by 1998.
  c. The CEI argues that there is a teacher surplus. Why might this be the case? Illustrate on your diagram.
2. According to the Department of Education, the problem is the opposite.
  a. Draw a second diagram of the labor market for teachers showing an initial equilibrium. Over the next decade, enrollments are expected to increase and the number of teachers to decline owing to retirements. Illustrate these changes on the curves in your diagram and explain what you have drawn.
  b. The Department of Education states that there will be a shortage. Why might a shortage arise? Explain with reference to your diagram.
  c. How might the shortage be corrected. List three ways corresponding to the three lines on your diagram.
3. Now draw a diagram of the market for teachers who teach in rural areas. Depict a shortage.
  a. The CEI suggests that school districts recruit more widely and that teaching licenses have wider currency. Illustrate how this would remedy the shortage.
  b. Would such measures reduce the shortage of teachers in science and math as easily? Why or why not?
Source Tamara Henry, "Study finds no teacher shortage," USA Today, October 7, 1999.

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