Kaine Introduces Bill Addressing Teacher, Principal Shortage

Loudoun County and school systems across the country may get some relief from the nationwide teacher shortage thanks to proposed federal legislation.

United States Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, introduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act Tuesday to address teacher and principal shortages, especially in rural communities.

The legislation will help ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to educate students, according to Kaine's office.

“At the start of every school year we see the same headlines about exploding class sizes and districts facing unfillable openings. Teacher shortages plague the whole country and are worst in our rural communities, but it’s a problem we can solve ... This bill will help us tackle this issue in Virginia and across the country,” Kaine said in a prepared statement. “It is also critical for our teaching workforce to grow more reflective of the diverse population of students it serves.”

The legislation would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include those experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities and in areas like special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and CTE, to allow for access to additional support and improvement.

It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. It would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. And it requires states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.

Additionally, since the majority of students in the nation’s public schools are students of color and the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent teachers of color, the PREP Act increases support for teacher preparation programs at Minority Serving Institutions or Historically Black Colleges and Universities to support a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce.

"The best federal education policy proposals reflect the experiences of states, and the PREP Act includes best practices and smart reforms we are implementing in Virginia to address teacher shortages and ensure that every child is taught by a qualified and well-prepared teacher," Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane said in a prepared statement.

According to Virginia Department of Education data from the 2016-17 school year, Loudoun County Public Schools had 34 unfilled positions -- nearly the highest number in the state -- though this translated to just 0.6 percent of positions unfilled given Loudoun's large population.

The PREP Act is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Writing Project, CAST, National Council of Teachers of English, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, the United Negro College Fund, the Committee for Children and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Learn More at the Loudoun Times-Mirror