Legislation aims to address persistent teacher shortages throughout New Jersey
As New Jersey schools continue to grapple with the effects of ongoing teacher shortages, legislators in Trenton advance new policies to break down barriers to entry for qualified, aspiring educators. One measure, sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Mila Jasey and Lisa Swain, aims to ensure students who begin their education at community college can apply all applicable credits to their teaching certificate. The Assembly Higher Education Committee unanimously advanced the bill on Monday.
The bill, A-5417, would prohibit the State Board of Education and educator preparation programs from limiting county college credits that can be applied toward teacher certificate or educator program requirements. This would eliminate the current six-credit limit that prevents students from applying all of their credits earned at a two-year institution to their certificate.
“We have a responsibility to staff our classrooms with the next generation of enthusiastic and qualified teachers who are ready to address the educational needs of our young learners head-on,” said Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “New Jersey is facing a severe teacher shortage, and barriers to entry, such as the high cost of education and certification, dissuade many from pursuing this career path. Prohibiting limitations on the number of credits transfer students from our state’s community college can apply toward their course requirements at a four-year institution will ensure students can move smoothly through the preparatory system without having to pay for redundant coursework.”
In the 2021-2022 school year, roughly 46% of all transfer students to a New Jersey college or university came from a New Jersey community college. Currently, only six credits, typically amounting to two classes, can be carried over and used to satisfy the requirements of a teacher preparatory program at a four-year institution.
“Existing limitations on the number of community college credits that can go towards certificate requirements hinder student progress, forcing them to spend more time and money relearning duplicative course material,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris). “We want to ensure all students can succeed in higher education and thrive in their chosen fields. All of their hard-earned credits from two-year institutions should count towards their education certificate and program requirements, allowing future teachers to get out of class and in front of the classroom faster.”
According to a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey’s colleges and universities produce far fewer teachers per 1,000 students than the rest of the nation, with the number of college students earning teaching degrees rapidly declining over the past decade.
“At a time when our school districts are struggling to adequately staff classrooms, the last thing we should be doing is making aspiring educators jump through hoops to secure a college degree,” said Assemblywoman Lisa Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Many students choose to start out at a community college, and it is a disservice to them that only six credits from a two-year college can be used to satisfy the requirements of the teaching certificate. Doing away with this policy will allow us to eliminate yet another barrier impeding the growth of our teacher workforce.”
In May, the Assembly Education Committee unanimously advanced the bill, which now awaits further consideration from the Speaker.