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Assembly Education Committee Advances Two Bills to Address the State’s Teacher Shortages

Measures Aim to Address Teacher Retention, Impacted Subject Areas and the Shrinking Teacher Applicant Pool

New Jersey is currently facing severe teacher shortages in school districts throughout the State. To address this and fill classroom vacancies with qualified educators, Assembly Democrats sponsor two measures to evaluate teacher retention rates and grow the teacher applicant pool for impacted subject areas.

While teacher shortages have been an ongoing issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. Teacher turnover and retirement have left positions throughout New Jersey vacant. Just this year, Newark schools had over 120 unfilled positions as classes began.

One measure (A-5292), sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Quijano and Pamela Lampitt, aims to collect data on teacher shortages in school districts throughout New Jersey. Districts would be required to submit a report to the Commissioner of Education on the number of vacancies, new positions, eliminated positions and anticipated retirements in their schools. The districts would also have to submit an annual report on teacher retention to explain the number of teachers that left employment, why they left and the characteristics of those who left.

Under the bill, the Commissioner would be required to compile the data submitted by school districts along with recommendations to improve teacher retention among different demographic groups and submit it to the Governor and the Legislature. The Executive Leadership Council of the New Jersey Education to Earning Data System would also have to issue a report on the State’s teacher workforce projections for the following two years using data provided by the Department of Education. This report would then be issued annually.

To create a solution for teacher shortages, it is not only important to address why current teachers are leaving the profession, but also the shrinking applicant pool. The number of candidates completing teacher preparation programs dropped 49% between 2009 and 2018.

Another bill (A-5291), sponsored by Assemblywoman Quijano, seeks to address the shrinking pool of teacher candidates by requiring educator preparation programs to submit an annual report to the Department of Education on the first-time and overall test pass rates of candidates for instructional certificates. The educator preparation program would have to publish this information on their website and the Department of Education would compile the data into a publically available comparative profile of all educator preparation programs.

Under the bill, educator preparation programs would also have to inform students about the availability of test fee waivers and include an optional lab fee in the program’s tuition and fees to be applied to the testing costs required for instructional certification.

Upon the measures passing the Assembly Education Committee on Thursday, Assemblywomen Quijano (D-Union) and Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington) released the following joint statement:

“If we want to keep our schools competitive, we have to address New Jersey’s teacher shortages. For years, our State has ranked among the top school systems in the nation, but vacancies in the classroom are preventing us from providing our students with the high-quality education that they deserve.

“The data these bills can provide is critical to understanding the causes of our teacher shortages and addressing impacted subject areas. With this legislation, we can take appropriate action to improve teacher retention and grow our applicant pool.”

The measures now head to the Speaker for further consideration.