Closing Opportunity Gaps to Student Access to Well-Prepared Teachers
Our nation is currently facing a teacher shortage. Across the country educators are leaving the profession at an alarming rate. Experienced teachers from diverse backgrounds are leaving the profession, and in their wake, students are left to be taught by a growing number of inexperienced teachers who are not representative of the classrooms they teach. This trend, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is disproportionately affecting historically underserved students. Schools in urban and rural areas that serve high-need students and schools with high enrollment of students of color were more likely to employ uncertified teachers and experience music teacher shortages. Forty-eight states reported shortages of special education teachers, nearly every state reported shortages in high needs subjects such as math, English, and science, and over the last decade 32 states reported shortages of music teachers.
It is more important now than ever for Congress to take action and “address long-standing inequities that have existed in our school systems and elevate our country’s education system to lead the world,” stated U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona in hearings before the House Education and Labor Committee in May 2022. NAfME agrees and is urging Congress to increase funding for programs to recruit a diversified teacher workforce, strengthen teacher preparation, and provide ongoing support for our nation’s educators. The Department of Education has also developed a fact sheet, detailing how federal funds can be used to support teacher quality and retention. Here are some areas to focus on:
Teacher Quality Partnership Program (TQP)
“The Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Program is the federal government’s primary vehicle for investing in comprehensive educator preparation.”1 Increased funding for TQP is a necessary first step to expand access to high-retention pathways into teaching. The program funds comprehensive undergraduate and graduate educator preparation programs that combine student teaching under an experienced mentor, with coursework in child development, teaching methods, and curriculum development. TQP funded residencies provide participants with a stipend to offset program costs in exchange for a service commitment of teaching a high-need subject in an underserved school. TQP funds can also be used to support Grow Your Own programs, which recruit and train teacher candidates from non-traditional backgrounds who will better reflect the local communities where they teach. The educator preparation programs supported by TQP have a proven track record of improving teacher retention, with studies showing teachers who enter the profession without completing student teaching or educator prep coursework are 2 to 3 times more likely to leave the profession than those who had. TQP has been chronically underfunded, with a cumulative gap of $2.5 billion over the past decade between what was authorized for the program in the Higher Education Act and what was allocated. We urge Congress to fund this program at a level of $1 billion to help close the gap in access to effective teacher preparation programs.
Augustus F. Hawkins Center for Excellence Program
A program that provides support for educator preparation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), the Augustus F. Hawkins Center for Excellence Program is a vital tool in diversifying the educator workforce. The program was created in 2008, but did not receive funding until this year, receiving $8 million. Low levels of funding for this program will hinder the teacher preparation program at MSIs, effectively lowering the number of diverse, well-prepared teachers entering the workforce. Greater diversity in the teaching profession has been shown to positively impact students’ educational experiences and outcomes. This is especially true when a diverse faculty instructs a diverse set of students. We urge Congress to fund this program at a level of $300 million to support the education and training of a diverse educator workforce.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part D Personnel Preparation Program
IDEA Part D provides competitive grants focused on improving the education of children with disabilities. The allowable uses for IDEA Part D grants include professional development of special education personnel, providing accessible technology to students, and dissemination of information. IDEA Part D provides crucial support in training and providing guidance for our nation’s special education personnel, yet funding for this program falls short of its need. This year, 48 states reported shortages of special education teachers, and without congressional intervention, these shortages will become more severe and further impede the learning of one of our most vulnerable populations. We implore Congress to take action to support our special education personnel and fund IDEA Part D at a level of $300 million.
Title II, Part A
Title II, Part A (Title II-A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is designed to improve student academic achievement by bolstering skills and expertise of teachers, principals, and other educators and increasing the number of high-quality teachers and principals in schools. Title II-A funds can be used to improve inadequate working conditions, poor compensation, and high-quality professional development. An increased federal investment into Title II-A would support states and local education agencies (LEAs) in addressing the root causes of the teacher shortage, as well as attracting a more diverse and experienced pool of educators. We urge Congress to support $3 billion for Title II-A, which will help curb the teacher shortage and better prepare educators to effectively teach their students.
Educator Salary/Student Loan Debt
Another barrier to forming a “well-prepared, diverse, experienced, and stable educator workforce”2 is the high cost of undergraduate and graduate teacher preparation programs. College students across the board incur high debts, and subsequently their job prospects are influenced by whether they will earn a salary that can pay off those debts. Due to the relatively low pay of teachers (compared to similarly credentialed professions), education has become an undesirable field for college students. Service scholarship programs and loan forgiveness programs have been effective tools in attracting college students to the education field in the past, but their effectiveness has waned with the ever-rising cost of higher education. To support the effective recruitment of educators we urge Congress to align the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) program to address “today’s preparation costs, dire educator shortages, and low educator pay.”1
The appropriations process is ongoing and will likely last into the fall. There is a strong desire on Capitol Hill to move the process along more quickly than last year, and to that end, both chambers of Congress have already begun their respective appropriations hearings. Throughout this process NAfME will continue to be a voice for music educators, advocating on their behalf for robust federal support of music education programs.
- Tackling Teacher Shortages, Hearing Before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, 117th Cong. 7-9 (2022) (testimony of Desiree Carver-Thomas)
- Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Education, Before the House Education and Labor Committee, 117th Cong. 7 (Testimony of Secretary Miguel Cardona)
- Hash, Philip M. (2021) “Supply and Demand: Music Teacher Shortage in the United States,” Research & Issues in Music Education: Vol. 16 : No. 1 , Article 3.