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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama) today introduced the Classrooms Reflecting Communities Act, legislation to alleviate the teacher shortage crisis in rural Alabama and in communities across the United States. The legislation comes in response to a roundtable discussion with educators and other stakeholders that Senator Jones hosted in August at the University of Montevallo about the challenges facing Alabama’s teacher workforce.
In Alabama, during the 2017-18 school year, more than 1,700 teachers in grades 7 through 12 were not certified to teach the English, math, social studies, science or special education classes to which they were assigned. In 70 Alabama schools, 10% or more of the teachers are working without full certification. Teacher shortages are shown to be the most severe in rural areas of Alabama. The School Superintendents of Alabama have reported that now elementary teachers are also becoming difficult to find, particularly in remote and rural parts of the state.
“Great teachers can make a huge difference in lives of the children they teach. We need to do everything we can to make sure that they have the resources they need in order to be successful and provide all of our children with the best education possible regardless of their ZIP code. This program will help incentivize the recruitment and retention of teachers who are invested in their communities and reflect the diversity of the students they teach,” Jones said. Jones is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The bill would authorize competitive grants for schools to establish a “Grow Your Own” program, which recruits diverse teacher candidates from the community into the teaching profession and supports them as they work to receive a teacher certification or licensure.
Improving access to quality education has been one of Senator Jones’ top priorities since arriving in the Senate. Among other things, he has introduced legislation to dramatically reduce the FAFSA application, fought to renew vital funding for HBCUs, and secured an increase in funding for childcare options for student-parents.