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Legislation addresses teacher shortages

From staff reports

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The teacher shortage in rural school districts is a crisis, according to the superintendent of Lyon County’s largest school district. Two congressmen are hoping legislation that recently introduced will help solve that crisis.

“The teacher shortage in rural school districts is truly a crisis,” Marshall School District Superintendent Scott Monson said. As we’ve known for many years, hard-working, talented, knowledgeable, and caring teachers are the backbone of any successful school or school district and finding those type of people continues to be a huge challenge.

Representatives Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Alex Mooney, R-WV, introduced bipartisan Addressing Teacher Shortages Act of 2018 to establish a competitive grant program at the Department of Education through which school districts can apply for funding to recruit, retain, and support teachers.

Under the legislation, school districts can apply to fund numerous initiatives including teacher residency, mentorship, licensing, tuition assistance, and other professional development programs. The legislation also provides additional staffing resources at the Department of Education to help under-resourced districts apply for grants and formally recognizes teaching as a part of career and technical education.

Grant funding would be distributed in the following way:

• 25 percent to address teacher shortages in rural areas.

• 25 percent to address teacher shortages in high-need subject areas (including but not limited to STEM, agriculture education, and special education).

• 25 percen to diversify a district’s teaching workforce.

• 5 percent to address shortages in Bureau of Indian Education schools.

• 20 percent at the discretion of the Secretary.

• It is possible for school districts to qualify across multiple categories.

“Many rural school districts struggle to adequately staff their schools,” said Peterson. “Particularly in growing fields like STEM and agricultural education, it is vital that our schools have the resources they need to prepare students as they enter the workforce.”

“As I travel across West Virginia, I hear about the need for high quality career and technical education opportunities for young people,” said Mooney. “This legislation will help ensure rural communities have access to funding to attract and retain quality teachers.”

Monson said he endorses the legislation.

“This bipartisan legislation provides opportunities for addressing the shortage with funding to support ideas, best practices, and innovation. I believe it will lead to an increased pool of teacher candidates for school districts to choose from,” he said.

Sleepy Eye Public Schools Superintendent John Cselovski also backs the legislation

“Teacher shortage has reached epidemic levels the past several years in Minnesota and nationwide as well,” he said. “Finding qualified teacher candidates not just in special education but in all areas and all grade levels. It has been a daunting task to find quality faculty. I appreciate representatives Petersen and Mooney for offering a solution for this educational crisis.”

The Addressing Teacher Shortages Act of 2018 is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and Education Minnesota. Senator Tina Smith, D-Minn., introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

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