Trenton – In an effort to address teacher shortages plaguing districts around New Jersey, the Senate today unanimously advanced a series of bills today aimed at bolstering the educator workforce in the state.
“While we have enacted various measures to try and address teacher shortages, it is clear more needs to be done to ensure our schools have adequate staff to meet the needs of our students,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This legislation will help to attract prospective teachers to the state and incentivize them to stay by removing barriers to joining the field and offering loan redemption for those that do.”
The first bill, S-3887, sponsored by Majority Leader Ruiz and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez, would expand the NJCLASS Teacher Loan Redemption Program to include teachers from all subject areas with any kind of student loan. The program would be broken up into a three-tier system, in which all recipients would receive loan forgiveness for up to four years of service.
“As young people around the country are struggling to pay their student loans, targeted efforts like this provide relief while helping to fill critical gaps in our state workforce,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “I look forward to seeing the impact this has on recent graduates around the state, as well as districts struggling to find the staff they need to teach the next generation of leaders.”
The highest tier would provide up to $5,000 a year for teachers working in a high-need field in a low performing school. Tier two would provide up to $3,750 a year for those working in a high-need field, but not a low performing school. Tier three would include any teacher with student loans and provide up to $2,500 a year in loan forgiveness.
A second bill, S-3814, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz, would establish an emergency instructional certificate for teachers and teacher candidates in high-need fields. The certificate would allow eligible certified teachers pursuing an endorsement in a high-need area to fill positions in that area while they’re in the process of getting the endorsement.
The final bill, S-3941, sponsored by Senate Education Chair Vin Gopal, would require the State Board of Examiner to waive certain teacher certification fees from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.
“Having to pay for various fees for certification can be costly, especially as a requirement to start a new job,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “This legislation will remove financial barriers for prospective teachers and hopefully encourage residents who have been contemplating joining the educator workforce to take the leap.”
All three bills were released from the Senate by votes of 37-0.