With the ongoing national shortage of school staff impacting school districts across New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at the annual New Jersey Education Association convention on Nov. 10 that he has signed an executive order establishing a task force to help address the challenges facing our educational workforce, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
The Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages in New Jersey created under Executive Order No. 309 will develop short- and long-term recommendations to increase the quantity of K-12 school staff – including teachers and support staff – in the state.
The task force will also explore best practices and innovative ways to recruit and retain school staff. The task force will identify best practices and resources to increase the pipeline of teachers and educational support candidates.
The task force will be established within the Office of the Governor and will be comprised of no more than 25 members, including the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, school administrators, including superintendents that represent a separate and distinct sector of the diverse student population across New Jersey, school board representatives, as well as representatives from various education-related associations, and members appointed upon the recommendation of legislative leaders. The task force will be chaired by the chief policy adviser to the governor.
Murphy noted that as one of the highest-rated states in the nation for public K-12 education, New Jersey prides itself on the quality of education it provides to children. “Unfortunately, our state is no exception to the national teacher shortage currently straining our education system,” he said. “With a critical need for learning recovery and acceleration as well as mental health support for our students, teachers and other school staff are more essential than ever. This task force will help us better understand how we can address ongoing shortages in our state in order to grow this critical workforce on behalf of New Jersey’s students.”
The New Jersey Department of Education is reporting a 25% decrease in the number of teaching certifications being issued today compared to a decade ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated shortages, especially in high-demand areas such as special education, science, math, and bilingual education.
Factors contributing to the widespread shortage of school staff include inadequate compensation, increased retirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of respect for the profession, and a dwindling pool of qualified candidates.
“New Jersey’s schools are facing staffing challenges on all fronts, including teachers and support staff, such as school bus drivers,” said Dr. Timothy Purnell, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. “We commend the governor for turning the state’s attention to this critical issue, and we’re looking forward to providing input to help ease these shortages to help all students succeed.”
“I applaud Gov. Murphy for establishing a task force to address the critical school staff shortage our school districts are facing,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “This task force will collaborate on methods to restore stability to the teaching profession and ensure students receive the quality education they deserve.”
As per legislation the governor signed earlier this year, NJDOE is in the process of creating a comprehensive report on the number of vacant, new, and eliminated teaching positions, the anticipated number of upcoming retirements, and the reasons why teachers are leaving their jobs to help officials understand the state of New Jersey’s teaching field.
The governor also met with first lady Dr. Jill Biden and other members of the Biden-Harris administration in August this year to discuss the national teacher shortage and ways to address it. Murphy understands that supportive, adequately-staffed classrooms are important to improving both educator and youth mental health – which is the focus of his Chairman’s Initiative for the National Governors Association.
The Task Force on Public School Staff Shortages in New Jersey will have until Jan. 31, 2023, to provide its initial recommendations to the governor.