WASHINGTON — Building respect for the teaching profession, increasing educator pay and creating public-private partnerships to help recruit and retain teachers are a few of the initiatives suggested by leaders gathered at the White House on Wednesday to discuss solutions to the teacher shortage crisis.
"If we want to draw more bright, talented people into this field — if we want educators to be able to do what they do best — we have to give them the pay and support they deserve," said First Lady Jill Biden, who has been a classroom teacher for more than 30 years.
Later in the meeting, President Joe Biden briefly opened a door into the room and said, "What she says," before quickly closing the door.
The meeting was hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council. In addition to Jill Biden, participants included U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, teacher union leaders, private business executives and others.
The 12 participants discussed a variety of solutions to the educator shortage problem, including promising practices for private-public collaboration between school systems and talent recruitment and job platforms.
For instance, ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace, is launching a new online job portal for K-12 public school job openings that will allow schools, districts and states to post open roles for free. Indeed, a platform for job seekers, plans to host virtual hiring fairs for education personnel.
Additionally, Handshake, a job site specifically for college students, will host a free virtual event to help undergraduate students learn about careers in education.
"Our students and educators need us to raise the bar to take bold, immediate actions to create sustainable change in education."
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education
Several national organizations, including the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, said they will work together with other partners to identify best practices to expand the teacher preparation pipeline.
On Wednesday, the Education and Labor departments released a joint letter to state and local education leaders and workforce officials urging creation of registered apprenticeship programs that could tap federal resources for career-building activities.
Walsh told the attendees that an apprenticeship program that combines classroom instruction with hands-on job experience "breaks down the barriers to good jobs." He said such programs can also provide equity in job attainment and encourage diversity in the workforce. The Labor Department's next round of apprenticeship funding will include $100 million prioritized for the education sector, he said.
Meeting participants also talked about the need to boost teacher pay as well as respect for the education profession.
"If we're serious in addressing the teacher shortage issue, we must first address the teacher respect issue," said Cardona.
"It's a symptom of something that we've had going on before the pandemic — a crisis of respect," Cardona said, adding that the average weekly wages of public school teachers increased only $29 between 1996 and 2021.
A survey released by Teacher Pay Teachers this week found 65% of educators reported less respect for the teaching profession than two years ago.
The Education and Labor departments' letter recommends states and school districts use American Rescue Plan funds to pay competitive wages to teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff. But because the ARP funds are only temporary, the departments advise states and communities to plan for sustained staffing levels needed to support students.
The departments also suggest that governors, county commissioners and mayors help schools support staff recruitment and retention with the $350 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.
"Our students deserve more now, not less," Cardona said. "And our students and educators need us to raise the bar to take bold, immediate actions to create sustainable change in education."