Gov. Brian Kemp introduced legislation aimed at beefing up Georgia’s teacher pipeline Tuesday. Kemp said the plan will help recruit, prepare, mentor and retain the best teachers across the state.
One big change Kemp wants to make is to diversify the workforce. For example, about 37% of Georgia’s students are African American, compared to 26% of teachers. To help boost that number, Kemp said he’ll employ historically Black colleges and universities.
“[They] play a significant role in teacher preparation, and they should play a major role in teacher placement,” Kemp said. “I want to ensure they lead the charge to create ways to get more minority teachers into our classrooms so students from all backgrounds and [ethnicities] can see themselves in their teachers.”
Research shows that students of color who have at least one teacher of their same race are more likely to graduate from high school.
Kemp’s legislative package would also strengthen existing teacher preparation programs for veterans and would let retired teachers return to classrooms while still receiving their pensions if they teach in a critical-needs area.
“… these are not big, broad ideas,” said Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. “These are laser-focused opportunities for us to make dramatic improvements as we move forward in 159 different counties and families across this great state.”
The Georgia Association of Educators issued a statement supporting the legislation.
“GAE fully agrees with the governor that teacher voices should be part of the decision-making process and appreciate the addition of a teacher as an ex-officio member of the state board of education,” GAE president Lisa Morgan said. “We believe this should extend further to ensure that the expert voices of our education professionals are impacting decision-making at the school, district and state levels.”
Due to concerns about the pandemic, lawmakers cut almost $1 billion from the K-12 education budget last year. But Kemp has proposed restoring about 60% of those cuts. He’s also allocated a one-time $1,000 bonus for school employees.
“Let me make clear, between the federal funding and the state funding, our schools will be in very good shape, again, showing [the governor’s] commitment and our commitment to K-12 education as the state’s highest priority with this [legislative] package he’s proposed,” said Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton.
A 2015 survey from the Georgia Department of Education showed almost half of new teachers leave the profession within five years.