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Franken introduces bill to fight teacher shortage

WASHINGTON—In what he called a major push to ensure children receive the best possible education, U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., introduced new legislation to address nationwide teacher shortages.

The Supporting Future Educators Act would help to prepare and retain outstanding teachers, increase teacher diversity and support communities and schools that are facing teacher shortages. Franken's bill would give schools in both rural and urban districts the tools to hire and support the qualified teachers they need, a news release from his office said Thursday.

"Last year, my office met with education leaders in every region of the state, and we heard time and again that teacher shortages not only hurt their ability to educate students, but also take a toll on them financially," said Franken, a member of the Senate Education Committee, in a news release. "Now, I believe that every child should have access to a world-class education—no matter where they live. But right now, there are too many communities that struggle to hire and retain qualified teachers. I'm going to be working to pass my bill into law so that we can get more teachers to enter and stay in the profession. We need to ensure that all children—in Minnesota and across the country—receive the high-quality education they deserve."

The Supporting Future Educators Act would support training for both new and current teachers, authorize the Education Department to create a national database to help teacher preparation programs better support their student teachers, and encourage an earlier start to pathways for becoming a teacher.

More specifically, the bill would:

Create a Strengthen-Our-Schools grant program—a portion of which would be specifically designated for addressing teacher shortage challenges in rural school districts—to support teacher residency programs, provide additional training for current teachers, and attract student teachers to placements in high-need districts. Funds would help to cover costs of tuition, resident salaries, mentor teacher incentives, and facilities or infrastructure for a distance learning classroom within the school for onsite coursework and practical learning.

Authorize the Education Department to create a national database of qualified mentor teachers who can provide student teacher supervision. This would give teacher preparation programs access to the resources they would need to allow teacher candidates to complete their student teaching in areas where they have better access to affordable housing options, such as staying with family or friends. It would also help to diversify student teaching experiences by building an infrastructure in rural and urban areas that may not otherwise be options for student teachers because of the geographic location of their program.

Formally recognize teaching as a part of Career and Technical Education to encourage an earlier start to pathways for becoming a teacher and allow schools access to a broader range of funding to support dual-enrollment programs in education.

Franken fought to get schools across Minnesota more of the resources they need in the recent overhaul of the "No Child Left Behind" law, now known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, which he helped write. And earlier this year, Franken helped introduce legislation that would reduce teacher shortages in rural Minnesota and in Indian Country, improving education for rural and Native American students across Minnesota.