The more charter schools, the worse the shortage of teachers prepared in university education programs. Those in university programs intend to be career educators, and their numbers are shrinking. Thus concludes a new study from a federal research center created to study choice and its effects.

When Betsy DeVos was Secretary of Education, she awarded $10 million to create the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH). The research group is headed by Douglas Harris, and DeVos assumed that he was pro-choice.

While Harris has written papers favorable to choice, he is an independent scholar and follows the data where it leads. In this paper, he and his co-author Mary Penn conclude that charter schools contribute to the teacher shortage.

On its face, the proposition makes sense. If a young person wants to teach, they can get a job in a charter school without a teacher education degree. They can join Teach for America and become a teacher with only weeks of preparation. Or in some states, they can teach with no certification or degrees. Why bother going through the process of professional education and certification when charter schools will hire without any prerequisites?

The summary of the study concludes:

Debates about charter schools center on their immediate effects on students who attend them and how charter schools affect nearby traditional public schools. However, as the charter sector has continued to grow, a broader range of possibly unintended effects become relevant. This study is one of the first to examine the possibility that
charter schools affect the teacher pipeline. We focus specifically on how charter schools affect the number of traditionally prepared teachers who receive a bachelor’s in education.

Using data from 290 school districts with at least one commuter college nearby, we analyze the effect on the traditional teacher pipeline from schools of education. We draw the following conclusions:

Increasing district charter school enrollment by 10% decreases the supply of teachers traditionally prepared with a bachelor’s in education by 13.5-15.2% on average.

Charter-driven reductions in the supply of traditionally prepared teachers are most apparent in elementary, special education, and math education degrees.

This is consistent with the fact that charter schools mostly serve elementary grades, express interest in subject matter experts (e.g., math majors), and are less likely to assign students to special education.

These charter-driven reductions are concentrated in metropolitan areas and are largest among Black teachers.

Given how central teachers are to the educational process, any effect on the teacher pipeline is important. The vast majority of U.S. teachers still come from university-based schools of education, and these teachers stay in the profession longer than those who are not traditionally prepared, which makes these declines note worthy. A larger
point is that charter schools change the entire schooling market in ways we are only beginning to recognize.

The National Education Policy Center reviewed the study here.