On Thursday, May 11, Assembly Education Committee Chair Pamela Lampitt was joined by Assembly colleagues and education stakeholders, including Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, to announce the introduction of a package of bills intended to alleviate the ongoing teacher shortage in New Jersey.
The package includes 12 bills designed to implement various strategies to improve recruitment and retention of high-quality school staff by reducing barriers to entry for aspiring educators and offering critical support to existing teachers. The bills would, for example, make the teacher preparation process more affordable and less time consuming, uplift those already working in the education field by establishing a pathway to certification for paraprofessionals and support professionals and revise certain teacher certification requirements that many education stakeholders view as a barrier to otherwise qualified candidates. According to a press release from the Assembly Majority Office, the legislative package represents the culmination of over seven months of collaboration between teachers, administrators, parents, students and legislators.
The package was announced at a State House press conference that was livestreamed. View a video recording of the press conference.
“All across New Jersey, school communities are grappling with the ongoing challenge of staffing their classrooms as the demand for qualified educators continues to dramatically outweigh the supply,” Lampitt, who represents Legislative District 6, said. “Teachers are foundational to the success of our schools and our students. We must do everything within our power to place skilled educators in classrooms, ensuring students can learn and thrive in our best-in-the-nation public schools.” She continued, “With this legislative package, we are addressing the complex issues currently plaguing the education profession and breaking down identifiable barriers that have long stood in the way of otherwise capable professionals entering, or remaining part of, New Jersey’s teacher workforce.”
Several legislators who will be sponsoring the bills delivered remarks at the event, as did representatives from various education groups, including the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the American Federation of Teachers New Jersey.
Purnell also participated in the announcement and delivered the following statement in overall support of the package:
“Good morning, my name is Timothy Purnell, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, a nonpartisan, state-created federation of local boards of education whose mission is to promote the achievement of all students.
Our districts have been forced to make difficult decisions to sustain the high quality and support services that every child needs. And our students are counting on us to solve this problem.
And to that end, we appreciate Assemblywoman Lampitt’s sense of urgency in working with her colleagues to put forward this package of bills that seeks to find solutions to the shortage.
We believe this is a crisis. And, you may say, well how can you say it’s a crisis?
But when our kids are routinely given substitute teachers instead of certified teachers, when our classrooms are overcrowded, and when we don’t get the support necessary for children academically and social-emotionally, then we have a crisis.
And there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t hear from our members about the difficulty in filling critical positions.
We owe it to the children of New Jersey to take whatever bold steps are necessary, so they can learn from qualified educators, so they can get help and support when they are struggling.
Our Association stands ready, firm and able to work with Assemblywoman Lampitt and any other member of the Legislature who wants to come to the table. Let’s put the political agendas aside, and let’s focus on the main thing. And the main thing is addressing this shortage, so we can support our students in the classroom. They deserve nothing less than the absolute best. Thank you.”
Purnell served alongside Lampitt on the governor’s Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages in New Jersey. That group released a report with its initial recommendations.
Joining in support for the package, representatives and stakeholders from the education community issued the following statements:
“Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has shown consistent leadership in addressing the needs of New Jersey school students. She again demonstrates that leadership today by addressing a critical issue affecting the quality of education for those students: the lack of qualified candidates for teaching and professional support positions,” said Dr. Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. “The bills introduced today are derived from recommendations made by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and a state task force created by Gov. Murphy. These legislative proposals, if enacted, will greatly assist in identifying, recruiting and supporting new educators as well as retaining current educators in their positions. NJASA supports these proposals and thanks Assemblywoman Lampitt for her initiative in addressing this critical need.”
“NJPSA applauds Assemblywoman Lampitt for the concrete, proactive legislative steps she is taking to address the educational staffing shortages facing our state,” said Karen Bingert, NJPSA executive director. “As school leaders charged with hiring our teachers, counselors and school staff, we commend the momentum that this legislative package brings to promote the education profession and ensure that practical, timely and meaningful steps are taken to keep our schools fully staffed by the best teachers. Our students deserve nothing less, and the time for innovative, collaborative, out-of-the-box solutions is now.”
“The educator shortage crisis is at a breaking point, and we must move urgently to get excellent teachers in every classroom in New Jersey. Removing unnecessary, costly barriers such as the Praxis Core requirement is critical to diversifying the educator workforce,” said Harry Lee, president and CEO of the New Jersey Public Charter Schools Association. “Public education stakeholders are united behind the need for immediate action, and we thank Chairwoman Lampitt for her leadership on these bills to alleviate the teacher shortage.”
“I commend Chairwoman Lampitt for her focus on the educator shortage and her leadership in pushing these bills forward,” said Sean M. Spiller, president of NJEA. “This is a complex problem that does not have a single solution. Each of these bills, in its own way, has the potential to help address the shortages. While more will be needed to fully meet the needs of New Jersey’s students, we are pleased to see these bills moving. We hope this helps create the momentum to do even more to address this crisis.”
“New Jersey, like many states in our nation, is facing a teacher shortage due to veteran teachers leaving the profession and a lack of students in the teacher pipeline,” said Donna M. Chiera, president of AFTNJ. “The incentives in the legislation being introduced by Assemblywoman Lampitt and her colleagues are important to colleges and universities as they visit high schools to recruit our next generation of teachers. AFTNJ looks forward to seeing Gov. Murphy sign these bills into law.”
The package includes the bills:
- A-5416: Requires the State Board of Education to authorize an alternate route to expedite teacher certification of persons employed as paraprofessionals in school districts.
- A-5417: Prohibits limiting the number of county college credits that may be applied toward educator preparation program and teacher certification requirements.
- A-5418: Establishes the Teacher Certification Reimbursement Fund in DOE to reimburse certain teachers for costs associated with certification.
- A-5419: Removes obstacles to teacher certification for certain teachers.
- A-5420: Establishes the New Jersey Student Educator Stipend Program.
- A-5421: Directs the State Board of Education to authorize issuance of new endorsements in certain fields.
- A-5422: Permits teachers and professional staff members who provide special services, who retired from TPAF to return to employment for up to two years without reenrollment in TPAF if employment commences during the 2023-2024 school year.
- A-5423: Expands the eligibility for NJCLASS Teacher Loan Redemption Program.
- A-5424: Provides a deduction from gross income of $500 for full-time educators and paraprofessionals and $350 for part-time educators and paraprofessionals.
- A-5425: Requires the State Board of Education to reduce clinical practice requirements for certain teacher candidates.
- A-5426: Establishes New Jersey Student Educator Tuition Remission Program.
- A-5427: Prohibits the commissioner of education from approving certain tests for teacher certification candidates with extended retake waiting periods.
Following the announcement, the Assembly Education Committee met to advance seven of the measures: A-5416, A-5417, A-5418, A-5419, A-5420, A-5421 and A-5422. A full rundown of those measures, along with any other State House Activity from last week, can be found here.
To view the full text of any of the bills summarized above, please visit the New Jersey Legislature’s website.