New year, old challenges as teachers go back to work

Published: Aug. 25, 2023 at 2:34 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Kids are heading back to the classroom on campuses that may be understaffed according to a recent survey. Organizations like Teach for America are looking for ways to ensure they will have teachers for generations to come.

“The reality is there are big challenges and we’re going to all have to work together to get on a different trajectory,” said Elisa Villanueva Beard, CEO of Teach for America.

TFA is an organization focused on recruiting young educators. While she says her current crop of teachers is 40 percent higher than last year, recruitment and retention are still difficult.

“This is a generation that wants to change the world, they know education matters, and we just have to create the conditions that gets them to be able to join us,” said Villanueva Beard.

Those conditions include compensation which is always top of mind when it comes to recruiting educators. Villanueva Beard adds more focus on mental health and building communities for teachers are crucial.

Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) is trying to dangle incentives to make the career choice more attractive.

“These are public servants who are not doing this for the money. These are often not the best paying jobs, so we want to make sure they can afford homes in the communities they serve,” said Ossoff.

Ossoff is pushing legislation called the HELPER Act. It seeks to create a one-time home loan program for first responders and teachers - eliminating upfront purchase costs and mortgage premiums that can make home buying impossible for some. Ossoff says the benefits would be similar to those offered to veterans.

“If firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and teachers can’t afford homes in the communities that they serve, then the whole community suffer,” said Ossoff.

Ossoff’s bipartisan legislation is currently sitting in a Senate committee. There is also a House version of the bill. With a busy fall schedule, it is unclear when or if it will pass.