Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed an executive directive Monday aimed at helping to alleviate Virginia’s teacher shortage – just weeks after attending a statewide conference on the matter at the University of Virginia, which has dedicated considerable resources to helping ease the situation.
“The teacher shortage is a growing crisis that we have to stop and reverse if we are serious about the commonwealth’s economic future,” McAuliffe said. “High-quality teachers are the key to unlocking the potential in our children, our commonwealth and the new Virginia economy, and these steps will help us recruit and retain them across the state.”
According to a press release, the directive includes these budget items:
• $1.1 million in new funding over the next two years to automate the teacher licensure process, which is currently paper-based;
• $1 million in new funding over the next two years to support the recruitment and retention of principals in Virginia’s most challenged school divisions; and
• $100,000 in new funding over the next two years to help cover the cost of tests and test-preparation programs for provisionally licensed, minority education students who pass those exams at disproportionately lower rates than their peers.
Also signing Executive Directive 14, which directs VA Board of Education emergency regulation authority to provide colleges/universities the option to offer undergrad degrees in teaching! Right now that option doesn't exist for Virginia students. pic.twitter.com/MIIF2lrLBx— Terry McAuliffe (@TerryMcAuliffe) December 11, 2017
McAuliffe also directed the state Board of Education to issue emergency regulations to give colleges and universities the option to offer undergraduate majors in education. Currently, programs may offer graduate degrees in education, but state regulations do not allow undergraduate majors in teaching.
The governor’s statement echoed the characterization he made of the shortage in October, when he attended a day-long conference at UVA’s Curry School of Education. Speaking then, he called the dilemma “the single biggest challenge” that his successor, Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, will face after he takes office in January.
“Everyone here has the opportunity to turn this conversation into action by being engaged with legislative efforts during this upcoming session,” McAuliffe said at the close of the conference. “You’re all going to have to lean in with the next governor. Don’t assume this just happens – it doesn’t. You all have to be part of it.”
Speaking Monday following the governor’s announcement, Curry School Dean Robert Pianta called the directive very responsive to the needs of school divisions across the state to increase the supply of well-prepared teachers.
“Allowing teacher preparation programs to develop four-year models, in my view, has the potential to create stronger preparation and more effective teachers in a shorter timeframe than the current master’s-focused approach,” he said.
The dean added, it is incumbent upon Curry “to prepare the very best teachers for Virginia’s schoolchildren.”
“Our five-year program has been a hallmark of that mission for several decades,” Pianta said, “and we believe this directive, which enables a move to an undergraduate teacher preparation program, creates the opportunity to enroll an even greater number of UVA students interested in becoming teachers than we might under our current structure.”
Virginia’s teacher shortage is caused by a number of variables, including low salaries and the time and the costs associated with becoming a licensed instructor. When there are fewer teachers, schools are forced to increase class sizes or rely on substitutes, who may be less qualified. The resulting disadvantages disproportionally affect low-income and minority students in the state, a cycle Pianta said the Curry School is dedicated to easing.