The Senate Education Committee today advanced a three-bill package, including legislation Senator Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. sponsored, to address New Jersey’s growing teacher shortage.
Committee release of the three bills came on the same day New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a nonpartisan think tank, issued a report about a decline in teaching candidates statewide, claiming that “unless lawmakers act to address New Jersey’s teacher shortage, there will not be enough qualified candidates to replace teachers leaving the profession.”
Mark Weber, the report’s author and a special analyst for education policy at NJPP, told InsiderNJ that the state’s teacher shortage is “a threat to public education and deserves an urgent, all-hands-on-deck response from state lawmakers.”
Diegnan’s bill, S2594, would require the State Board of Education to authorize an alternative means for teaching candidates to secure employment as a teacher with a school district while awaiting the issuance of a certificate of eligibility or certificate of eligibility with advanced standing from the Department of Education.
“New Jersey is facing a severe teacher shortage,” said Diegnan, whose bill, introduced last month, heads to the full Senate for a vote.
“Some districts are fearful of whether they will have enough teachers in the classroom come September. This legislation will give the Department of Education the ability to expedite teaching certification. Most importantly, it will help school districts attract qualified teachers into the classroom.”
The New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, Save our Schools, Garden State Coalition of Schools, and New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association all support Diegnan’s bill.
Another bill (S2661) in the package, which Diegnan co-sponsored and Senator Richard Codey introduced, would establish the New Jersey Educator Scholarship Program in the Department of Education.
Under the program, the department would award 50 scholarships annually to eligible recipients enrolled in an institution of higher education. The purpose of the scholarship program would be to provide incentives for high-achieving students to pursue careers in education.
The legislative package also included S2350, which would establish the Grow Your Own Teacher Loan Redemption Program in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA). The program would provide for the redemption of a portion of a participant’s eligible student loan expenses for each year employed full-time in the school district from which the participant graduated, provided the Department of Education determines the district has a shortage of teachers.
The bill, which Senators Vin Gopal and Teresa Ruiz sponsored, is designed to encourage high school alumni from a school district with a shortage of teachers to return to their home district to teach.