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Jasey, DeAngelo, Tucker, Benson and Ramos Bill to Help 9/11 Veterans Become Teachers Signed Into Law

Pilot Program Will Expedite Certification Process and Help Fill Anticipated Teacher Shortage

Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Mila Jasey, Wayne DeAngelo, Cleopatra Tucker, Daniel R. Benson and Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. to help 9/11 veterans find employment through an expedited teacher certification program was signed into law on Thursday.

“This program will help provide veterans with a path to higher education and employment opportunities, while filling a predicted critical shortage in the teaching profession. It’s a win-win,” said Jasey (D-Essex). “Our state veterans have already proven themselves in terms of leadership and would serve the students of our state well in the classroom. This is one more way to help repay the debt of gratitude we owe them.”

The new law (A-1294) will establish the “VETeach Pilot Program” in the Department of Education, which will create a 36-month teacher preparation program at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey for veterans who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001. The educational expenses incurred by eligible students will be covered under the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

“Who better to have in the classroom teaching our children than those who bravely dedicated themselves to serving our country,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The high unemployment rate among our veterans is unacceptable and there will be a great need for a new generation of teachers in coming years. We need to establish initiatives such as VETeach that will provide an avenue for veterans to pursue careers in education while helping to place role models in the classroom.”

The establishment of the pilot program represents one of a series of veteran employment initiatives to be advanced under the auspices of Operation College Promise, which provides resources to help veterans maximize the education benefits they have earned.

The program will lead to a baccalaureate degree and completion of the requirements necessary to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing, which will authorize veterans to seek employment as a teacher in grades K through 8, and in certain secondary education fields.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September 11, 2001, was 11.5% in 2010, much higher than the national average.

Additionally, a 2009 report by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future found that more than a third of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers could retire in the next four years.

“The high attrition rate among new teachers of nearly 33% is also worrisome, and leaves school districts with a loss of teaching talent that is becoming more difficult to replace. The VETeach can help fill the shortage,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “The program may also serve to attract a greater number of men and minorities, groups which are currently underrepresented in the teaching profession.”

“The unemployment number for veterans is alarming and the shortage of public school teachers to educate our children is just as troubling. Programs like VETeach address these deficiencies by providing veterans with an educational opportunity that could lead to employment, and supplying our schools with qualified teachers, who have proven their merit not only in the classroom, but in serving our country,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).

“The VETeach program addresses two problems: anticipated teacher shortages and the high unemployment number among veterans. Our veterans deserve better than an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average,” said Ramos (D-Hudson). “Through this program, our veterans will be able to pursue teaching professions, which will help tackle the unemployment issue, and bring a unique perspective to the classroom, which could enhance learning and benefit our students.”

The bill was unanimously approved by both houses of the legislature.