Scroll Top

Gopal, Greenstein, Turner Bills Meant to Bolster New Jersey Teacher Ranks Clear Committee

PR headers (1600 × 1200 px)

TRENTON – As part of ongoing efforts to shore up New Jersey’s public teacher shortage, the Senate Education Committee released bills sponsored by Sen. Vin Gopal, Sen. Linda Greenstein and Sen. Shirley Turner aimed at encouraging more individuals to enter the teaching ranks, by both expediting certification procedures as well as offering financial assistance and other supports to enable them do so.


The first bill, S-3886, would establish the New Jersey Student Teacher Scholarship Program  in the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority in the hopes of reducing financial barriers to teacher certification by providing scholarships to eligible students as they complete their two semesters of required clinical practice – also known as “student teaching,”


“In order for us to attract and retain a richer and deeper pool of qualified educators to teach our students and to maintain a high level of learning in our schools, we must do what we can to make the training process more affordable,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “One way we can do that is to make sure student teachers have the financial resources, a steady source of modest income, to help them to complete what they started.”


Under the bill, students would be awarded an amount of $7,200 for each semester of full-time clinical practice that they complete.


  • Currently, student teachers are unpaid and expected to be at their school sites daily.


  • They also spend roughly 200 or more hours working outside the classroom, such as in grading, prep work or after-school hours, thereby making it difficult for them to support themselves by working another job.


  • The aim of the bill would be to ease some of those financial pressures so students can concentrate on their academics and continue to make timely progress towards obtaining a teaching certificate.


A second bill, S-3883, would require the State Board of Education to authorize an alternate route to expedite the teacher certification of persons who are employed or have been employed by a school district as a paraprofessional, or an instructional assistant.


“In New Jersey, and across the country, we are facing a major crisis in our classrooms where the numbers of teachers prepared each year, especially in critical shortage areas such as Math and Science, continue to decline,” said Senator Greenstein (Middlesex/Mercer). “We need to do everything we can to ensure our schools are well-equipped to deliver best-in-the-nation education. This bill will help us to streamline the certification process where possible, and build back the numbers of trained educators in our schools.”


In addition to any other requirements that might be established by the Board of Education, the alternate route for paraprofessionals would include:


  1. a) a formula for applying a candidate’s accrued direct classroom service to any student teacher requirements, is already employed by a school district;


  1. b) a requirement that the school district in which the candidate is currently employed make every reasonable effort to permit the candidate to perform any required student teaching in the district while, if possible, continuing employment as a paraprofessional or instructional assistant.


“We desperately need to bring more teachers into the classroom, and we need to do so with all due haste,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “The cohort of existing paraprofessionals provides a great opportunity to help meet this demand, and a tremendous untapped resource that can be utilized under the right conditions and requirements that the Board of Education will put into place.”


The bills were released from committee, respectively, on votes of 5-0, and 5-0.