Sen. Acosta and Rep. Giraldo introduce legislation to address teacher shortages
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Jonathon Acosta and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo have introduced legislation to address the statewide teacher shortages currently plaguing the state’s school districts.
The legislation (2023-S 0542, 2023-H 6170) would create postsecondary tuition assistance for shortages in teaching fields, which are defined as subject areas or teacher certifications that are experiencing a critical lack of educators in the state. In particular, science and math teachers for grades seven through 12 are cited in the legislation as critical areas of need for more teachers.
“Rhode Island will never be able to get a handle on our teacher shortage crisis without truly investing in the next generation of local teachers. Our state will have no future success if there are not enough teachers to educate our children and this bill will not only help students already planning to enter the field, but it will also incentivize many more individuals to take up the noble and vital profession of teaching,” said Senator Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).
“This is a common-sense approach to our state’s teacher shortage that will demonstrate our commitment to teaching, training and most importantly, retaining, critically needed teachers for the benefit of our children. Affording the necessary training and education to become a teacher is a significant barrier for some, and this legislation will allow these individuals to pursue their dream of teaching while also providing a critical service to our state,” said Representative Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls).
Recipients of tuition assistance would have to be enrolled, or accepted for enrollment, at a Rhode Island postsecondary institution in a program to become a teacher in a shortage field and complete at least three years of full-time teaching in a shortage teaching field in Rhode Island.
If an individual receives tuition assistance, and then leaves their institution’s program to become a teacher in a shortage field prior to completing their degree, the tuition assistance provided to date shall become a loan to be repaid by the individual. This would also apply if an individual receives tuition assistance and then does not complete the service requirement.
All funds would be allocated toward the tuition, room, board, mandatory fees, and additional costs of attending a Rhode Island postsecondary institution to become a teacher in a shortage field. The funds would cover costs that remain after all other financial aid funds have been awarded to the tuition assistance recipient.
The fund would be available for individuals to attend any Rhode Island postsecondary institution, public or private, as long as the funds disbursed to a private institution for tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees would be limited to the amount that Rhode Island College charges for the same expenses in the same academic year.
Senator Acosta’s bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and Representative Giraldo’s bill has been referred to the House Finance Committee.