BY TIFFANY WOODS
After graduating from Webster University with a degree in elementary education last May, Nikki Galowski found a job as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool.
Although she would like to teach in her own classroom, the scarcity of teaching jobs in the area and the competitiveness for those that are available has made her chosen profession difficult.
“I’m still getting to work with children, but I still don’t have my own classroom, and I don’t make enough money,” Galowski said.
Education graduates may share Galowski’s plight, especially as a volatile economy causes state governments and school districts making budget cuts in education. Public schools receive funding from federal and state governments and local taxes. When these resources dwindle, schools compensate by cutting costs, which has lead to teacher layoff.
“No one expects that they’re going to have a hard time getting a job after graduating college,” Galowski said. “When I started, I was told there was a 98 percent chance I’d get a job. I understand economics change, but it still kind of sucks.”
In St. Louis, last month’s announcement of teacher layoffs in Ladue caused concern for those in education. A budget cut of $5 million is leading the district to remove 40 positions, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.
Mary Bevel, a graduate studies professor who teaches administration, said although money problems are not uncommon in East St. Louis or St. Louis City, financial woes in Ladue “should be a red flag to everyone.”
With the problems the education profession is facing, Galowski said she may need to return to school to study something else. Had she known the job market for teachers would be poor when she started school, Galowski said she probably would not have chosen this career path. Bevel warned that trend may become a real possibility for many students.
“If this continues, less people will go into education,” Bevel said. “It is a trend that needs to be closely examined.”
With fewer jobs and more unemployed teachers, competition for the positions which are available has increased. Bevel said four recent openings in the Webster Grooves school district drew about 2,000 applicants.
The competition not only makes jobs harder to find, but can alter the working atmosphere for those who do have a job, Bevel said.
“Everybody says part of the reason they became a teacher was they liked the people they worked with and the way they worked as a team, and to have that undermined really cuts to the core,” said Ann Lucini, an elementary education graduate student.
Lucini recently returned to school to receive her master’s in elementary education after previously earning a bachelor’s in business. Lucini said she is in less of a rush to graduate, and has already begun to build her resume while taking classes by volunteering, subbing and networking more. Still, the possibility of not finding a job despite preparations remains daunting to her, she said.
“All the teachers say they’ve never seen it like this before,” Lucini said. “It’s been bad before but not this bad. It’s pretty scary.”
Bever believes the best bet for grads searching for a job is in high-needs area, where not everyone is willing to apply, as well as math and science positions, which are always in demand. Galowski is still searching for a teaching job, but worries not only about the number of jobs, but the laid-off teachers now also looking for jobs who have more experience than her.
“It’s frustrating because you want to help kids but there’s an overwhelming amount of teachers,” Galowski said. “And then you hear Obama say we need more teachers and it’s like ‘Really, where?’ ”