Aug 17, 2022 - News

SF faces teacher shortage at start of school year

Teacher talking with students
Burton High School teacher, Eirik Nielsen, talks with students. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

San Francisco public schools welcome students back today, but not all classrooms will be staffed with full-time teachers.

What's happening: SFUSD would not confirm the number of teachers it still needed to hire for the 2022-23 school year, but last month, the district's head of staffing, Sam Bass, told the SF Standard there were 116 "open classroom positions."

  • As of last week, there were 60 vacancies. Still, SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick told Axios that the district is working to make sure every classroom has "a qualified teacher" by the start of the school year.
  • Cassondra Curiel, president for the United Educators of San Francisco union, told Axios that filling open roles has been a mix of hiring new, full-time teachers, as well as reassigning district staff members with teaching credentials to classrooms.

Driving the news: Teacher shortages are happening across the country — driven by burnout, low pay and ever-increasing demands, Axios Local reported earlier this week.

  • In SF, where the cost of living is among the highest in the country, modest wages have forced teachers to consider moving to districts outside the city or turn to other professions entirely.
  • Problems intensified for SF teachers in January, when the district's roll out of its new payroll system caused thousands of issues — some resulting in staff members receiving partial, or no pay, for certain pay periods.

What they're saying: "If [the district] cannot maintain our pay and they cannot maintain our staffing … how on earth do they expect to maintain our loyalty?" Amber Ulrich, a 7th grade science teacher at Martin Luther King Jr middle school, told us.

  • Ulrich said one of her monthly paychecks last year totaled $9.73 after she was told she did not fill out her timecard properly.
  • Prior to the new payroll system, full-time teachers did not need to fill out timecards since they are salaried employees and their base pay is not dependent on the number of hours they work.

What's next: SFUSD is offering cash bonuses — between $1,000 and $2,000 — in an effort to recruit and hire more teachers.

  • United Educators also said it's in negotiations with the district to get teachers a raise — which would be their first pay bump in two years.

As for the ongoing payroll issues, Curiel told Axios she's hopeful that the district's new superintendent Matt Wayne is paying attention.

  • "From day one, he has not been silent or ignoring the issue," Curiel said. "Being a realist, though — this is going to take awhile."
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