Sen. Tina Smith Presses to Help Schools in Minnesota, Across the Country Hit Hard by Teacher Shortages

WASHINGTON D.C [07/09/18]—Today, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Education Committee—introduced legislation to help schools in Minnesota and across the country fill their growing need for STEM and special education teachers, to give rural districts resources to overcome teacher shortages, and to develop a more-diverse teacher workforce in the nation’s schools.

Sen. Smith’s bill—the Addressing Teacher Shortages Act—would allow school districts across the country to apply for grants to help them to attract and retain the quality teachers they need. The bill would also provide funding for the Department of Education to administer the grant program and help districts apply, including ways for smaller or under-resourced school districts to receive grants under the proposal. You can read a summary of Sen. Smith’s legislation here.

“More than 40 percent of our nation’s small, rural school districts struggle to find the teachers they need,” said Sen. Smith.“And among all schools, we see growing shortages in subject areas like special education, foreign languages, and the STEM subjects that help train students for 21st Century jobs. My legislation would provide funding to schools in Minnesota and across the country to help them overcome these types of teacher shortages.”

This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and Education Minnesota.

“There are many reasons for the shortage of teachers in Minnesota schools so any federal program must give local districts the freedom to choose their own solutions,” said Denise Specht, President of Education Minnesota. “Sen. Smith’s grant program does just that. Mentoring, induction programs, targeted support for educators of color and tuition assistance are all proven strategies for districts to try, or expand, with Addressing Teacher Shortage Act grants. It’s refreshing to see federal legislation that makes so much sense for schools, educators and the students we serve.”

The grant program created through Sen. Smith’s legislation could be used to establish or expand:

  • teaching residency programs
  • teacher mentor programs
  • programs at institutions of higher education that encourage students majoring in STEM fields to take courses in education
  • teacher preparation pathways in secondary schools
  • other evidence-based strategies to increase teacher retention and support teachers, such as
    • increasing access to technology for professional development in rural areas
    • supporting teachers in fulfilling requirements to become certified in an additional subject area, to obtain National Board Certification, or to teach Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or dual or concurrent enrollment programs
    • induction programs for new teachers
    • tuition assistance, housing allowances, or stipends for student teachers, first-year teachers, and second-year teachers
    • professional development for school administrators focusing on teacher leadership or teacher retention

You can read a summary of Sen. Smith’s legislation here