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Smith co-introduces bill to boost sagging teacher numbers across country

Sen. Tina Smith
Sen. Tina Smith

Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., reintroduced legislation Wednesday, July 31, to help schools and districts in Minnesota and across the country hit hard by teacher shortages.

According to a news release, Smith is pushing the legislation to meet demands in all locations and in all fields, resulting in teacher shortages.

More than 40 percent of the nation’s small, rural school districts struggle with adequately staffing their schools, and shortages are most acute in certain subject areas. There is a growing need for STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics), foreign language, and special education teachers. Additionally, there is a severe lack of racial diversity -- nationwide teachers of color compromise only 18 percent of the teacher workforce.

The Addressing Teacher Shortages Act would allow school districts across the country to apply for grants to help them to attract and retain the quality teachers they need. The bill would also fund U.S. Department of Education efforts to help smaller and under-resourced districts apply for grants.

“I’m hearing from Minnesota school superintendents this summer about many vacancies they are struggling to fill. More than 40% of our nation’s small, rural school districts report that it’s difficult to hire the teachers they need,” Smith stated in the release. “And it’s especially difficult to hire in hard-to-staff areas like STEM subjects, career and technical education and special education. Ultimately, these shortages harm our kids and diminish their opportunities. My bill will help schools overcome these challenges and help ensure students get the best education possible.”

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The grant funding would be distributed with at least 25% going to rural districts, high-needs subject areas, and to diversify the teaching workforce, respectively, and 5% to Bureau of Indian Education schools. The remaining funding could be allocated at the Secretary’s discretion.

The Addressing Teacher Shortages Act is cosponsored by Sen. Doug Jones. D-Ala.

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