Merkley, Wyden Support Bill to Boost America’s Public School Teachers
The bicameral bill includes programs to recruit, train, support, and retain effective teachers to address school staffing shortages
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden are cosponsoring the EDUCATORS for America Act, major legislation that would help raise student achievement and rebuild the educator pipeline by supporting the development and retention of effective educators.
The bill would strengthen the educator workforce, address the shortage of teachers, and support comprehensive educator preparation.
“Teachers and educators have the ability to inspire, encourage, and spark creativity in students across the state, and play a vital role in the success of students throughout their entire lives,” said Merkley. “As the product of Oregon public schools and the first in my family to graduate from college, I know the difference a good teacher can make. We need to do much more to support teachers and students, and this bill is a great first step.”
“The outsized importance of teachers and educators is evidenced by the fact that so many memories of school begin with a wonderful adult in the classroom influencing the lives of children and motivating them to pursue their dreams,” Wyden said. “This bill helps to ensure that schoolkids in Oregon and nationwide will continue being able to count on having those teachers and educators in their lives. Passing this bill is important homework for Congress, and I’m all in to get it done.”
The EDUCATORS for America Act would annually authorize $500 million for grants to states that develop strategies to meet their educator workforce needs and another $500 million to enhance educator preparation programs. The bill would also expand the Teacher Quality Partnership Program to expand programs for principals and address the need for specialized personnel, such as early childhood educators and counselors; reauthorize the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program for teacher preparation efforts at historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions; and double federal TEACH grants to $8,000 per year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 270,000 teachers were projected to leave the field each year between 2016 and 2026. The pandemic only accelerated this trend. At the same time, enrollment in educator preparation programs is plummeting. School districts across the nation are struggling to fill positions. Two consecutive surveys conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in 2021 and 2022 showed that nearly 40 percent of school principals planned to leave their jobs in the next few years. Moreover, the gap between the demographic makeup of the student body and the education profession is widening. Even though over 50 percent of students are people of color and multiple studies have shown racial diversity can provide significant benefits to students, a 2022 Department of Education report showed that 80 percent of public-school teachers identified as white, a figure that had barely changed since 2000.
The EDUCATORS for America Act calls for a $1 billion annual investment to support states and local communities in building a new educator pipeline that will ensure that all schools have the diverse, profession-ready teachers, principals, librarians, counselors, and other specialized instructional support personnel they need to support student development and academic achievement.
This legislation is led by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) and U.S. Representative Alma Adams (D-NC). Alongside Merkley and Wyden, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
Under the proposed legislation, the $1 billion annual investment in the educator pipeline would be evenly divided between state capacity building and direct support for educator preparation programs and partnerships with high need school districts. It addresses the full pipeline from early outreach and career exploration to financial assistance and wrap-around supports for those pursuing education careers to clinical preparation for teachers, principals and other educators to faculty development, all with a focus on ensuring equity and diversity.
SUMMARY: EDUCATORS for America Act
Authorizes $500 million annually for grants to support states in developing and implementing a statewide strategy for meeting their educator workforce needs, including ensuring an inclusive and equitable workforce that supports the recruitment, preparation, and retention of populations that are underrepresented in the field of education, including teachers of color, first generation college students, and teachers with disabilities
Authorizes $500 million annually to support educator preparation programs and partnerships including:
- Updating and expanding the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Program to focus on residency programs, strengthening the principal and school leader preparation programs, and enabling partnerships to address the need for early childhood educators, school librarians, counselors, and other specialized support personnel.
- Reauthorizing the Honorable Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program to support Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving institutions in expanding and strengthening their educator preparation programs.
- Providing recruitment and completion grants to educator preparation programs to ensure that students have the wrap around supports they need to graduate.
- Establishing an education careers opportunity program to expose middle and high school students to the education profession.
- Increasing the capacity of educator preparation programs to meet the needs of the field, including supporting school leader development, faculty professional development and training, offering doctoral fellowships, and promoting innovation and resiliency.
- Streamlining the data and reporting requirements for teacher preparation programs to focus on key measures related to program quality and addressing identified workforce needs. Calls for the National Center for Education Statistics to convene an expert panel to make recommendations on a robust and concise set of national indicators on the size, diversity, and quality of the teacher workforce, and the equitable distribution of profession ready teachers.
Removing financial barriers to entering the education profession by:
- Doubling the TEACH grants to $8,000 per year and providing additional protections and options to prevent the conversion of grants to loans.
- Including the costs of clinical experiences in the cost of attendance for awarding financial aid.
- Authorizing the federal government to make student loan payments on behalf of teachers, school leaders serving in high needs schools, and early childhood educators and forgiving the balance of their loans after five years of service.
- Providing incremental credit to all other educators, effectively providing loan forgiveness as they serve rather than after they complete 10 years of service.
Leading organizations endorsing the bill include: AACTE (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education); American Association of State Colleges and Universities; American Association of School Personnel Administrators; American Federation of School Administrators; American Federation of Teachers; American Library Association; American Occupational Therapy Association; American Psychological Association; American Society for Engineering Education; Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD); ASCD; ACTFL; California State University; Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL); Committee for Children; Council of Administrators of Special Education; Council for Exceptional Children; Deans for Impact; EDGE Consulting Partners; Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE); Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities; Learning Forward; National Association for Music Education; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; National Association of School Psychologists; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE); National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Council of Teachers of English; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; National Center for Teacher Residencies (NCTR); National Education Association; National Indian Impacted Schools Association; National Institute for Excellence in Teaching; PDK International; Public Advocates; Public Advocacy for Kids; School Social Work Association of America; State Higher Education Executive Officers Association; STEM Education Coalition; Teach Plus; Teacher Education Council Of State Colleges And Universities; Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children; The Arc of the United States; Thurgood Marshall College Fund; UNCF (United Negro College Fund); University of Northern Iowa; and Vernier Software & Technology.
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