HOUSTON (AP) -

The number of new teachers in Texas has dropped sharply during the last four years, though education observers identify several different reasons for the change.

Texas schools hired fewer than 15,000 first-year teachers last year, down from 25,000 in 2008. According to the Texas Education Agency, the 2011-12 school year was the first in recent history in which Texas public schools lost more teachers than they gained.
    
The Great Recession and major cuts to education funding passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 contributed to a hiring slowdown. But more experienced educators looking for work may have also made things harder for new teachers.
    
JoAnn Phan says it took her 18 months to find a job teaching kindergarten at a Houston elementary school.