Murphy orders task force to address teacher shortage in New Jersey

A task force will be set up to address the teacher shortage in the state’s K-12 public schools as the problem continues to escalate in New Jersey and across the country.

Gov. Phil Murphy issued an executive order late last week to create the task force to “help the state address the challenges facing our education workforce” and develop short- and long-term recommendations to increase the number of teachers.

Murphy made the announcement during a speech at the New Jersey Education Association convention in Atlantic City, an annual event hosted by the state’s largest teachers’ union, a major financial donor to the governor.

The number of certified teachers working in New Jersey public schools in 2019-20 was approximately 98,000. In 2020-21, that number fell to 96,000, according to data released by the New Jersey Department of Education. New Jersey.

And there has been a decade-long decline in the number of students graduating in education. In New Jersey, the number dropped 49% between 2009 and 2018, according to a study published in March 2020 by New Jersey Policy Perspective. The main reason is a “teacher pay gap” – which argues that teachers are not paid comparably to people in other professions who have a similar education, advocates said.

New Jersey began registering critical teacher shortage areas with the federal government in 2004. Shortages have continued.

The shortages began in 2003 and occurred primarily in the poorer districts of the state. The federal government invites states to report teacher shortages for tracking purposes.

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The task force is much needed, at a time when staffing shortages in some large urban districts may have “reached crisis proportions for students,” said Elizabeth Athos, education equity advocate at Education. Law Center, a group that advocates for the poorest neighborhoods in the state. Those students are already in classrooms without certified teachers, and districts have “haemorrhaged teachers and other key personnel,” Athos said.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Education is expected to provide data for a report due in March that will project teaching staff vacancies for the next three to five years, according to a law passed by the Murphy administration. in January. The ministry did not respond whether it was on track to provide that data on time. The law requires the Executive Board of Directors of the New Jersey Education to Earnings Data System to provide semi-annual progress reports to state legislators.

The Education Law Center urged the Department of Education to “begin collecting and publishing data on job vacancies” and asked the state to include members with expertise in special education areas. and bilingual education, because these students are the most affected.

The 25-member task force will be chaired by Dennis Zeveloff, Murphy’s chief policy adviser. It will consist of six members from the state’s two teachers’ unions, four from the NJEA and two from the American Federation of Teachers, and three from the state associations for superintendents and administrators.

Other lobby and interest groups represented will be state charter schools, school affairs officials, parent-teacher association, County Board of Vocational and Technical Schools, Association of Training Colleges of State Teachers and the Association of State Colleges and Universities. A state senator and assembly representative will also serve on the task force.

Teacher shortages have historically affected school districts in the state’s lowest-income districts, which have worsened during the pandemic. The problem has now spread to wealthier areas as a result of declining interest and enrollment in teacher preparation programs and strict certification and state residency requirements, advocates say.

Since shortages are also a national issue, the federal government has issued advisories encouraging states to use COVID emergency relief funds to hire school staff and teachers as a one-time measure.

Since the early 2000s, bilingual teachers and ESL, foreign language, math, science, and special education teachers have experienced shortages in New Jersey. Vocational and technical education teachers have been in short supply since 2020.

The state legislature has passed bills to reduce certification costs and requirements and make it easier for students to work as substitute teachers. A teacher residency bill that opens the option for high school students to start working toward teacher certification passed the state Senate in 2021, but must be approved by the Assembly before going to office. by Murphy.

Kindergarten teacher Carly Soojian greets her class on their first day of school.  Wayne School District is the last school system in Passaic County to have full-day kindergarten.  Students arrive for their first day of school at James Fallon School in Wayne, NJ on Thursday, September 9, 2021.

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A bill to eliminate Teacher Performance Appraisal in Education, or edTPA, a costly and cumbersome certification requirement received a conditional veto from Murphy, shifting the burden of teacher certification from the shoulders of the state to the colleges that train them. While the move was welcomed by interest groups and the NJEA, some said it came too late for the current school year. Teacher educators were lukewarm about the move, saying the conditional veto still exerts unnecessary pressure with additional demands on student teachers.

New Jersey’s 2023 budget did not allocate money specifically to address teacher shortages, but did allocate $550,000 for workforce diversity programs in K-12 schools. year and $750,000 to support minority teacher recruitment programs in high-poverty school districts to better reflect their student demographics. . The federal government allocated $600 million in new funds in June to address the nationwide teacher shortage

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