U.S. Senator Tina Smith Reintroduces Bill to Help Schools Overcome Teacher Shortages in Minnesota, Across the Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. [7.21.23] – This week, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.)—a member of the Senate Education Committee—reintroduced legislation to help schools and districts in Minnesota and across the country facing teacher shortages.

Ahead of the 2022- 2023 academic year, 78 percent of schools nationwide found it difficult to find qualified teachers for special education and science, according to surveys of school leaders. There is an urgent need for STEM, career and technical education, and special education teachers. Additionally, there is a severe lack of racial diversity—nationwide teachers of color comprise only 18 percent of the teacher workforce.

“I hear from Minnesota school superintendents every summer about the many vacancies they’re struggling to fill, an issue that has only gotten harder in the past few years and is even more challenging in small, rural school districts,” said Sen. Smith. “And it’s especially difficult to hire teachers in key subjects like STEM, technical education and special education. Ultimately, these shortages hurt our kids and diminish their opportunities. My bill will help schools overcome these challenges and help ensure students get the best education possible.”

Sen. Smith’s bill—the Addressing Teacher Shortages Act—would provide grants to school districts to help them attract and retain the quality teachers they need. The bill would also fund U.S. Department of Education efforts to help smaller and under-resourced districts apply for grants.

Funding under the grant program could be used to establish or expand:

  1. Teaching residency programs
  2. Teacher mentor programs
  3. “Grow Your Own” programs to ease teacher staffing shortages and increase workforce diversity by tapping staff already working in school buildings to become teachers
  4. “2+2” programs to provide flexible pathways for students to obtain a bachelor’s degree
  5. Programs at an institution of higher education that encourage students majoring in STEM fields to take courses in education
  6. Teacher preparation pathways in secondary schools
  7. Other evidence-based strategies to increase teacher retention and support teachers, such as:
  8. Increasing access to technology for professional development in rural areas
  9. 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
  10. Induction programs for new teachers
  11. Tuition assistance, housing allowances, or stipends for student teachers, first-year teachers, and second-year teachers
  12. Professional development for school administrators focusing on teacher leadership or teacher retention

The grant funding would be distributed competitively with at least 25 percent going to rural districts, high-needs subject areas, and to diversify the teaching workforce, respectively, and 5 percent to Bureau of Indian Education schools. The remaining funding could be allocated at the Secretary’s discretion.

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

“We are happy to hear that Senator Smith is addressing the teacher shortage by reintroducing her Addressing Teacher Shortages Act,” said Erin A. Toninato, Executive Director, Minnesota Administrators for Special Education. “The shortage of special education providers is at a crisis level.  Districts are unable to fill positions and are being forced to find alternative methods to provide instruction for special education students that are less effective. Senator Smith’s bill is an important step to improve the crisis and keeps special educators in mind”.

“I am appreciative of the work that Senator Smith has put into addressing a critical need for our country,” said Jeffrey S. Elstad, Superintendent, Owatonna Public Schools. “As a district superintendent, addressing the teacher shortage is the most crucial issue today. This bill adds critical funding and framework to provide solutions that are proven and will address the needs of struggling districts immediately. Without this help, our students and current teaching staff will continue to struggle with disastrous results.”

You can read more about the legislation here.