Kaine bill addresses teacher, principal shortages

tim kaineU.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages, especially in rural communities. This legislation will help ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future. Kaine introduced an earlier version of the legislation in the 115th Congress.

“As schools across our nation continue to face growing class sizes, many are struggling with a shortage of qualified teachers. Rural communities in particular are experiencing a dearth of teachers equipped to meet their growing needs. By creating high-quality teacher residency programs like Grow Your Own and increasing support for these programs at Minority Serving Institutions, this bill will help provide schools and districts with the teachers to prepare students for future success,” said Kaine.

“Teacher and principal shortages at schools across the country, particularly in rural areas in the State of Maine, impede our students’ ability to reach their full potential,” said Collins.  “This bipartisan bill would increase access to high-quality teacher and leader training programs and extend federal support for recruiting well-prepared educators for areas affected by teacher shortages.”

The legislation would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas like special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and career and technical education (CTE) in order to give schools access to additional support. It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. The bill would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. And it requires states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.

Additionally, since the majority of students in our nation’s public schools are students of color and the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent teachers of color, the PREP Act increases support for teacher preparation programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce.

Here are the school divisions with the highest percentage and highest number of unfilled teacher positions in public schools across Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Education as of 2016-2017:

Top Divisions with Highest % Unfilled Teacher PositionsShortage (%)Number of Unfilled Positions
Middlesex County Public Schools20.3%20
Petersburg City Public Schools13.9%47
Danville City Public Schools10.1%47
Bland County Public Schools8.6%6
Greensville County Public Schools6.7%13
Caroline County Public Schools5.4%13
Martinsville City Public Schools4.9%9
Appomattox County Public Schools4.5%8
Bath County Public Schools4.4%3
Dinwiddie County Public Schools4.4%15

Top Divisions with Highest # of Unfilled Teacher PositionsNumber of Unfilled PositionsShortage (%)
Fairfax County Public Schools2181.4%
Prince William County Public Schools611.0%
Richmond City Public Schools533.2%
Norfolk City Public Schools532.2%
Petersburg City Public Schools4713.9%
Danville City Public Schools4710.1%
Suffolk City Public Schools444.0%
Loudoun County Public Schools340.6%
Chesapeake City Public Schools240.9%
Portsmouth City Public Schools232.2%

Teacher shortages are a nationwide problem. In 2016, a Learning Policy Institute study found that teacher education enrollment dropped 35 percent between 2009 and 2014. While this can be due to a lot of factors, low teacher pay and a lack of support for advanced training, play a role. Teacher shortages are even greater in special education and subject areas like science, mathematics, world languages, and CTE—fields that are vital for U.S. economic success. Further, research shows that better prepared teachers stay longer in the profession and are more effective in improving student achievement and that a racially representative mix of teachers and school leaders can have a strong positive effect on closing the achievement gap for students of color.

The PREP Act is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Knowledge Alliance,  National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Writing Project, Committee for Children, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL),  and Advance CTE.

View full bill text, here

View a section-by-section of the bill, here.

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