‘VETeach Pilot Program’ Would Create Expedited Path to Accreditation
ATLANTIC CITY – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which will make it easier for returning veterans to become public school teachers was signed into law today by Acting Governor Kim Guadagno at a ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Atlantic City.
“New Jersey’s military veterans have risked their lives in combat zones around the world to protect America from its enemies abroad,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “The men and women who are currently serving or have served their country through military service deserve a level of support when they come home, and their commitment to service could be a shining example to our State’s young people. By establishing a program to transition our veterans from the combat zone to the classroom, we’re living up to our commitment to support our troops, and we’re giving them an opportunity to continue to serve by educating the leaders of tomorrow.”
The bill, S-1026, establishes the “VETeach Pilot Program” in the Department of Education in order to address a pending shortage in public school teachers and allow veterans to transition into the classroom. Under the pilot program, the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey will enroll veterans who served in the Armed Forces on or after September 11, 2001 into a 36-month teacher preparation program. Upon completion of the expedited program, participants will receive a baccalaureate degree, and will be able to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate allowing them to teach in grades K through 8, and in certain secondary education fields.
Senator Whelan noted that under the new law, any educational expenses incurred will be covered under the “Post 9-11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill. He also added that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans nationwide was 11.5% in 2010 – nearly 2 percentage points above the national average.
“With the increase in the number of public school teachers who have filed for retirement in recent years, New Jersey is on the brink of a teacher shortage,” said Senator Whelan. “In order to give our kids the best education possible, we need to recruit new teachers who are dedicated and committed to the kids that they teach. The VETeach program helps our returning troops transition to civilian life, but it also gives so much to our students, who can learn from the unique perspective of someone who has served his or her country during a dangerous time in American history.”
Senator Whelan was joined at the news conference by John Demones, a Chief Master Sergeant from the U.S. Air Force who retired after 20 years. Mr. Demones has been teaching fourth grade in the Atlantic City School District for the last 5 years. Senator Whelan said that Mr. Demones is the sort of veteran-teacher that they’re looking to attract through the VETeach program.
“Mr. Demones is the model of what we want the VETeach program to be,” said Senator Whelan. “After serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, he has returned to his community to devote his talents to teaching. His experiences serving in the military have made him an excellent teacher, and we hope to attract more veterans like John Demones to the teaching profession, because there’s just so much that they can pass on to future generations of New Jersey leaders.”
The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate in February and received final legislative approval in the Assembly in March.