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Kaine & Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Grow a Well-Prepared and Diverse Teacher Workforce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine—who serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—joined Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Jesús "Chuy" García (D-IL-04) and Jahana Hayes (D-CT-05) in introducing the Diversifying by Investing in Educators and Students to Improve Outcomes For Youth (DIVERSIFY) Act, which would strengthen the Teacher Education Assistance for College and High Education (TEACH) grant program, helping attract more teachers to the field and expand teacher diversity.  

The majority of students in our nation’s public schools are students of color, and the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent teachers of color. Service scholarship programs that truly offset the cost of teacher preparation are proven to be successful in expanding the teacher workforce and recruiting diverse teachers to commit to teaching in high-needs fields and schools. TEACH grants provide scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students who commit to teaching a high-need subject in an elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students for four years. By providing additional resources for the TEACH Grant program, the DIVERSIFY Act would help ensure that the grant awards more closely match college costs. This would better support aspiring teachers and create a more diverse teacher workforce.

“Ensuring teachers are well-prepared and increasing diversity in the classroom gives students the best opportunity to succeed,” said Kaine. “This bill will help ensure prospective teachers have access to the high-quality education they need and expand diversity in the educator workforce.”

The DIVERSIFY Act will help create a well-prepared and diverse educator workforce by:

  • Increasing the maximum TEACH Grant award to $8,000 per year to align with the cost of college today – which exceeds $29,000 a year at four-year colleges and universities.
  • Ending annual cuts to the TEACH Grant award, which this year alone resulted in a decrease to the maximum award of over $225. Without Congressional action these cuts will continue through 2029.    
  • Eliminating the harsh loan conversion penalty, which can serve as a deterrent to entering the program, and therefore lock potential teachers out of the education workforce.
  • Ensuring that the TEACH Grant program effectively covers the full cost of comprehensive preparation and reduces debt burdens, by amending the program to cover the full cost of attendance, rather than just tuition, fees, and institutionally-owned housing.
  • Ensuring early childhood educators are eligible for TEACH Grants, by including service in a high-need early education program or in a high-need school as an eligible service area.

These reforms will help ensure that students have access to diverse teachers who have completed high-quality pathways into the profession.

Joining Kaine and Booker in cosponsoring the legislation are Senators Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT). 

Kaine has long supported efforts to invest and increase diversity in the educator workforce. Kaine has introduced legislation to address educator shortages and increase children’s access to a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce by strengthening the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. Kaine has also introduced legislation to address staffing shortages in the child care and early childhood educator workforce by developing, administering, and evaluating early childhood education apprenticeships. In addition, Kaine has championed his bipartisan PREP Act, which would address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity. In 2021, Kaine lead led a letter urging Senate leadership to invest in a well-prepared, diverse, supported, and stable educator workforce.

A fact sheet for the legislation is available here.