U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that they secured a significant boost in federal funding to help alleviate New York State’s serious teacher shortage in the soon-to-pass bipartisan spending package. Specifically, the senators announced that they had rejected the administration’s proposed elimination of the Title II Supporting Effective Instruction State (Title II) grant program, and instead boosted funding for it by $76 million, bringing its total funding to $2.131 billion. The Title II program provides funding to schools and school districts to use for teacher recruitment and retention. The bill also requests a Government Accountability Office Report on what trends and factors have contributed to teacher shortages and what challenges school districts face on teacher recruitment and retention. Just this year, upon hearing that there are 21,000 fewer teachers now than a decade ago, Schumer visited both Pine Grove Middle School in East Syracuse and Brighton Central School District in Monroe County to push back against the elimination of the Title II program.
“Access to a quality, public education is one of the bedrocks of our American society, and right now, that access is under threat across Upstate New York because of a teacher shortage. To keep up with escalating demand and increasing retirements, New York schools need to be hiring thousands of new teachers per year, and instead, the opposite is happening,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why in negotiations for the soon-to-pass bipartisan spending deal, I fought tooth and nail to reject the administration’s proposed elimination of the Title II program, and instead increased funding for it. With the education of countless Upstate New Yorkers at stake, I’ll keep working until this teacher shortage is expelled.”
“Teachers play a critical role in ensuring that our children have access to a high-quality and well-rounded education that will prepare them for their future,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The teacher shortages across New York state and the country over the last few years underscore how vitally important it is to retain top teachers and invest in them. I am proud Congress rejected the President’s proposal to cut this important program and instead is choosing to provide teachers with more resources and training. Supporting teachers is supporting students and the future of our state and country.”
To illustrate the worsening of the teacher shortage across New York State, Schumer and Gillibrand pointed to an October 2018 report from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). The report estimates that over the next decade, New York State schools will have to hire 10,000-18,000 new teachers per year to keep up with the rising demand. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Education estimates that United States schools would need to hire 1.6 million new teachers over the next decade to match demand. The 2018 NYSUT report also reveals that statewide, since 2009-2010, enrollment in teacher education programs in New York State has decreased by roughly 47%, from over 79,000 students in 2009-10 to just over 41,000 students in 2015-16.
The report also cites a statistic from the 2017 New York State Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Comprehensive Annual Financial Report showing that at the time, over 50,000 TRS members were over the age of 55, with another 35,000 members being between the ages of 50-54. In total, the report estimates that over the coming five years, roughly one third of the TRS workforce will be at the age of retirement. Schumer argued that these statistics and estimates demonstrate a clear and present need to recruit new teachers and incentivize people to enter the field, before it’s too late.
Furthermore, the NYSUT report lists what the Department of Education acknowledged in 2016-17 as recognized teacher shortage issue areas in New York State, specifically referencing: Bilingual Education; Special Education, All Grades; English as a Second Language; Early Childhood; Visual Arts; Dance; Reading/Literacy; Social Studies; Career and Technical Education; Special Education, Bilingual; English Language Arts; Elementary Education; Music; Mathematics; Sciences; and Theater.
The absolutely essential Title II program provides funding to schools in New York and across the country to assist with the recruitment, retention and professional development of educators. Even though the Title II program received $2.09 billion last year, with $147 million being sent to schools in New York, the administration’s budget for Fiscal Year 2020 proposed the complete elimination of the program.