Money available for teacher recruitment, retention

Published 4:34 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is allocating $12 million to a variety of programs as part of its ongoing teacher recruitment and retention efforts, including $2 million to encourage and assist aspiring educators and other school staff to earn full state teaching licensure.

The VDOE press release continued by stating that 20 school divisions with relatively high percentages of provisionally licensed teachers are being invited to apply for grants to cover the tuition and fees for the required coursework, and these divisions include Prince Edward County Public Schools (PECPS).

Although provisionally licensed teachers are the most likely candidates to benefit, support under the Continuing Education Support (CES) grant program is open to all employees in the identified divisions — including school counselors, social workers and support staff — who are seeking full state licensure.

The eligible divisions all have rates of provisional licensure of 10% or higher or, in the case of divisions employing 1,000 or more teachers, 5% or higher. The divisions have until Monday, Jan. 10, to apply.

In addition to PECPS, the other eligible divisions hail from the following localities: Brunswick County, Colonial Beach, Essex County, Franklin city, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Greensville County, Hampton, Highland County, Hopewell, Martinsville, Newport News, Norfolk, Northampton County, Richmond city, Roanoke city, Southampton County, Stafford County and Sussex County.

“It is our hope that this grant opportunity will not only lead to an increase in the number of fully licensed teachers but will also help foster a culture of lifelong learning and a supportive community for all school employees,” Secretary of Education Frances Bradford said. “I know from my travels around the commonwealth that there are many dedicated school employees who may not have the resources to complete the coursework required to earn a teaching license. I am pleased that now — with funding from the American Rescue Plan — we are able to help provisionally licensed teachers and other school employees overcome financial barriers and achieve their dreams.”

The divisions may submit applications for up to $100,000 over three years to assist employees with tuition and fees for coursework completed at regionally accredited colleges and universities.

VDOE will distribute grant funds to school divisions receiving awards on a reimbursement basis. Funding for the CES grant program is from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The act allocated $2.1 billion in pandemic relief money for Virginia public schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund. Ninety percent of the award — known as ESSER III to distinguish the latest aid from allocations under two previous federal relief measures — went directly to the commonwealth’s 132 school divisions.

The CES grants are part of approximately $12 million of ESSER III-funded state-level efforts specifically focused on educator recruitment and retention and increasing the supply of qualified educators and school leaders. Other initiatives include:

• Educator Preparation Program Paid Internships for state-approved teacher preparation programs to provide paid internship scholarships for teacher and school counseling candidates during the spring and fall 2022 semesters in school divisions in Northern Virginia (Region 4), the Richmond area (Region 1) and Hampton Roads (Region 2). All 36 state-approved Preparation Programs are encouraged to apply and recruit candidates who are students of color, demonstrate financial need, are seeking endorsement in top critical shortage areas or are first-generation college students.

• Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Residency Collaborative to expand an existing teacher residency program involving Richmond Public Schools, Petersburg Public Schools with support from Virginia State University and Virginia Union University to increase the number of highly qualified teachers of color in critical shortage areas and in high-need schools. Additional support will go toward existing residency programs with Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University to provide statewide division expansion.

• Communities of Practice for Aspiring Superintendents program at the College of William & Mary where participants will receive ongoing professional learning and support to assist in the recruitment and retention of superintendents.

• Mentorship Training Incentive Grants to support mentoring programs for first-year teachers in school divisions with significant teacher shortages.

• Online MentorVA Training to support the expansion of George Mason University’s online clinical faculty and mentor training initiatives statewide for all eight Superintendent Regions.

• Praxis and Virginia Communication and Literacy Assessment Assistance competitive grants to cover costs of test fees, tutoring, workshops and other efforts to prepare provisionally licensed teachers and pre-service candidates for assessments required for full licensure.

• Support for the annual Educators Rising Conference and related expenses. Educators Rising is a national program that assists districts in cultivating their own next generation of highly skilled educators.

While this represents most of the VDOE educator recruitment and retention initiatives provided by these specific funds, additional details for some remaining programs are still being finalized.