We pay lip service to how teachers truly shape the lives of our youth but often forget that is exactly what they do. It’s critical work. Each profession and launched career starts with a student sitting in a classroom with a teacher who cares. Engineers, doctors, IT workers, artists and climate scientists all are first influenced, taught and — as was in my case — inspired by teachers.

Nationwide, public schools spent about $14.2 billion in federal Covid relief aid in fiscal year 2021, with the bulk of the money going to address learning loss and teacher recruitment and retention, according to the U.S. Education Department. Here in California, we allocated more than $915 million for education staff development and recruitment in 2021-2022 — more than was spent in the previous five years altogether, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. State leaders also invested about $1.5 billion, apportioned in the 2021-22 school year and available to be spent through June 2026 on programs to support teacher recruitment and retention, while eliminating barriers to entry.

These investments are right, vital and a baseline of how much we should be spending on ensuring our classrooms have high-quality teachers. We want every student to have a chance to meet their own Mr. Wiley. There are those who have called for reductions or curbing this type of spending due to the shift in our economic future. With inflation, a deteriorating stock market and reductions in the California-based tech sector workforce, we are looking at a 9.6% projected decrease in tax revenues.

I strongly disagree with this thinking.

Now is the time to double down on the investments we’ve made since 2020 in shoring up our educator workforce and its pipeline. Much like we have rightly expended millions to combat learning loss, we cannot stop that expenditure just as students are starting to turn the corner and make progress through tutoring and other supportive programs.

Yes, we are still facing a teacher shortage. In fact, over the next decade, 100,000 teachers are needed to offer our students a high-quality education, especially in STEM subjects, special education, and rural areas, according to the California School Boards Association. However, we see positive signs. Enrollment in teacher preparation programs is increasing. We have seen an increase in participation in our educator recruitment job fairs, with over 175 unique local education agencies, representing 43% of all California students, signed up to utilize the recruitment toolkit through our successful online public service announcement — the We Want You campaign.

Yes, the time to have faith in our investment is now. The time to ensure we keep our foot on the gas and continue to invest in recruiting strong, talented educators to our classrooms is now. We must continue to advocate to ensure the governor’s May budget revision includes what’s outlined at the very least with an increase in the Golden State Teacher Grant Program and Classified School Employee Teacher Credential Program.

Read the full article about high quality teachers by Marvin Lopez at EdSource.