Kaine introduces Senate bill to address nationwide teacher, principal shortages

tim kaineU.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, 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 educate students and prepare them for the future.

“At the start of every school year we see the same headlines about exploding class sizes and districts facing unfillable openings. Teacher shortages plague the whole country, and are worst in our rural communities, but it’s a problem we can solve. When teachers and principals have the tools they need to succeed, they are more likely to stay in their roles. This bill will help us tackle this issue in Virginia and across the country,” Kaine said.  “It is also critical for our teaching workforce to grow more reflective of the diverse population of students it serves.”

The legislation would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include those experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities and in areas such as special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and CTE, to allow for access to additional support and improvement. 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. It 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) or 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 the Commonwealth, according to theVirginia 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%

“The PREP Act is thoughtful legislation that supports the current progress states are making to address educator shortages and transform the way teachers are prepared to ensure all educators are ready on day one to meet the needs of all students in the classroom. This proposed legislation gives states the support they need to administer effective programs, while at the same time holding them accountable for results. We look forward to continuing to work with Senator Kaine and all Members of Congress on efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act in a way that supports necessary improvements in how we can better prepare teachers and leaders to meet the needs of all children,”Carissa Moffat Miller, Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers said.

“The best federal education policy proposals reflect the experiences of states, and the PREP Act includes best practices and smart reforms we are implementing in Virginia to address teacher shortages and ensure that every child is taught by a qualified and well-prepared teacher,” Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said.

Last year, then Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe had to implement an emergency regulation, ordering the Virginia Board of Education to instruct state public colleges and universities to start offering undergraduate students the opportunity to major in education because of a vast teacher shortage across the Commonwealth. 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 under supported advanced training play a role. Teacher shortages are even greater in areas such as special education and fields such as science, mathematics, world languages, and career technical education (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 minority students.

The PREP Act is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Writing Project, CAST, National Council of Teachers of English, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Committee for Children, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).

View full bill text, here.

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