The stats contributing to teacher shortages are glaring: the average teacher earns about 20% less than other college-educated workers and even less than that average in 25 states. Even more startling, the average salary is so low in 38 states that “mid-career teachers who are the head of household for a family of four qualify for two or more government benefits based on income,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Experts have made it clear that shortages are not severe across the board. Administrators are having the most difficult time finding teachers for areas such as special and bilingual education, high school STEM and other specialized subjects. To help district leaders continue to seek solutions, the Biden Administration on Thursday laid out a five-point plan to replenish America’s classrooms and retain our best teachers. “The fact that in many states teachers do not earn a livable and competitive wage is a significant contributor to a weak pipeline and high attrition,” the Department of Education says.
The three key areas of focus for the Department of Education are recruiting diverse teachers, providing more professional development opportunities and retaining high-quality educators, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said on Thursday. His department’s 2023 budget request includes $600 million in new funds–adding to a total of almost $3 billion–to recruit, support and retain a talented, diverse workforce.
The agency intends to invest $132 million to upgrade teacher preparation, $250 million to develop more special education teachers and $20 million to build up education programs at historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions.
Here are the 5 strategies that the Biden Administration intends to follow in partnership with school districts to lessen the impact of the teacher shortage:
- Expanding teacher residencies, grow-your-own programs for educators and students, and other affordable, evidence-based preparation models.
- Incentivizing teachers to earn certifications in special education, bilingual education and other high-demand areas of instruction.
- Helping teachers pay off their student loans through loan forgiveness and service scholarship programs.
- Ensuring that teachers have mentors early in their career and ample access to high-quality curricular materials. Another key element of general teacher support will be providing funding for schools to hire more guidance counselors, social workers, nurses and mental health professionals to treat students.
- Creating more opportunities for teacher advancement and leadership by, for instance, encouraging them to serve as instructional coaches and mentors and participate in distributive leadership models.
K-12 administrators can find further guidance from this fact sheet on how to use American Rescue Plan funds to invest in teachers. The money can be used to raise teacher salaries, cover licensing fees, establish loan forgiveness programs and provide teachers with mentors, among other strategies.
“Even before the pandemic, many states and communities experienced shortages of qualified teachers, including in critical areas such as special education, bilingual education, career and technical education, and science, technology, engineering, and math education,” Cardona said. “The pandemic has only served to make these shortages worse–falling hardest on students in underserved communities.”