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Kaine & Collins Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Nationwide Teacher and Principal Shortages

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity. This legislation will help ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed hundreds of thousands of educators across the country out of their jobs and has exacerbated the pre-existing shortage of qualified teachers and principals,” said Senator Kaine. “By offering more resources to schools with teacher shortages and fostering partnerships between school districts and colleges — including increased support for teacher prep programs at Minority Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities — the PREP Act will lead to more teachers helping students reach their full potential.”

“Teacher and principal shortages at schools across the country, particularly in rural communities, impede our students’ ability to reach their full potential,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan bill would strengthen high-quality teacher and leader training programs, ensuring that school districts are properly equipped with educators to meet the needs of our next generation of leaders.”

The legislation’s provisions would expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas like special education, English language, science, technology, engineering, math, and career and technical education (CTE) in order to give schools access to additional support. It would also encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators. The bill would increase access to teacher and school leader residency programs and preparation training. Further, it would require states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.

In addition, since 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, the PREP Act increases support for teacher preparation programs at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce. 

The latest Virginia Department of Education report on teacher shortages shows that there were more than 1,000 unfilled teaching positions across Virginia before the COVID-19 pandemic. But teacher shortages are a nationwide problem. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that an overwhelming majority of states report teacher shortages in mathematics, science, and special education for the 2020-21 school year. Some persisting factors that contribute to teacher shortages include a lack of qualified applicants and not enough support for advanced training. Teacher shortages are even greater in special education and subject areas like mathematics, science, world languages, and CTE—fields that are vital for our economic success. Moreover, research shows that better prepared teachers stay longer in the profession and are more effective in improving student achievement. Research also shows that a racially diverse mix of teachers and school leaders can have a strong positive effect on closing the achievement gap for students of color. 

The PREP Act is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Knowledge Alliance; the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP); the National Writing Project; Committee for Children; the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL); AASA, the School Superintendents Association; Advance CTE; the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE); the National Education Association (NEA); ASCD; and the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

View full bill text here.