State efforts to combat teacher shortages

“State Efforts to Combat Teacher Shortages: A look at new laws and investments in the Midwest” ~ PDF

Introduction

Interest in being a classroom teacher has waned in recent years, and state policymakers are having to confront how best to incentivize qualified applicants to fill long-existing vacancies, keep current educators in the classroom, and encourage more people to enter the profession.

Whether it includes adopting licensure accommodations, offering financial aid, or providing upskilling opportunities, the tactics that Midwestern states are taking to recruit and retain educators are purposely multifaceted.

This issue brief showcases the myriad strategies Midwestern state legislatures and agencies have implemented in recent years, with a focus on the years 2021 through 2023. Among the ideas:

  • New or expanded scholarship programs for prospective teachers;
  • Loan forgiveness and bonuses for existing teachers;
  • State-level changes in licensure requirements and teacher preparation programs;
  • Targeted assistance for paraprofessionals to become licensed educators; and
  • Help for school districts in expanding their pool of substitute teachers.

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Canada Day in California

Left to Right: California Assemblymember Ash Kalra, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, and Consul General Rana Sarkar.

CSG West staff attended activities during the annual Canada Day in California, which was celebrated April 17th in Sacramento. Every year the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, currently led by Consul General Rana Sarkar, descends on the capital city with a special guest to build alliances and remind officials of the importance of the Canada – U.S. relationship.

This year’s special guest was former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, who served in that role from 2014 to 2017. He also served as partner and managing director of the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs and co-founded Uncharted LLC, an organization that convenes and connects diverse groups of Americans and Canadians.

The California Chamber of Commerce hosted a lunchtime fireside chat on the future of U.S.-Canada relations titled Partnering for Prosperity: Canada-U.S. Economic Security. President and CEO of CalChamber, Jennifer Barrera, welcomed state and local officials and guests interested in strengthening the relationship. California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, Wade Crowfoot, highlighted cooperation and partnership with Canada on various issues such as droughts, floods, and wildfires.

The Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, along with Air Canada, hosted a Friends of Canada Reception that same evening at the California Museum to highlight the importance of binational interests and endeavors in a more relaxed environment. The reception allowed for valuable time to meet and reconnect with fellow advocates of the unique and longstanding relationship with our neighbor to the North. Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the only California legislator originally from Canada (born in Toronto before moving to San Jose with his family as a young child) was in attendance as were other dignitaries.

The relationship with Canada is important to CSG West. The Canada Relations Committee, which is part of CSG West’s policy work, convenes policymakers from across the western U.S. and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia to address issues of common interest. The committee will convene during the upcoming 77th CSG West Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

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MLC Chair’s Initiative on Workforce | Q & A with Ohio Sen. Bill Reineke

For years, Ohio Sen. Bill Reineke has been a leader in his state on issues related to workforce. That includes his sponsorship of major legislation as well as membership on the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board.

He is now helping lead a regionwide effort on workforce as chair of The Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference. This topic is the focus of his MLC Chair’s Initiative. In support of the initiative, CSG Midwest is producing a series of articles, research briefs and policy sessions for the region’s legislators related to this initiative.

In this interview with Sen. Reineke, he explains why he believes a ready workforce is the “bedrock” of success not only for individuals, but for states and their communities, and how legislators can play a leading role in crafting effective policy.

Question: Why have you made workforce a top priority during your time as an Ohio legislator, and now as 2024 chair of CSG’s Midwestern Legislative Conference?

Answer: Workforce is the bedrock of individual, business and community success. As a business owner, I struggled with recruiting new employees, and I could not understand why it was so difficult to attract students into the career tech and trades pathways. The opportunities for these careers are not only more modern and technology-driven than one would expect, they are truly endless.

I had thought that the K-12 education world moved the way it was supposed to, preparing students for the workforce and for college. Instead, I found that business and education have an awkward relationship, which was ultimately out of alignment with student success. At the time, about 25 percent of Ohio high school graduates needed remediation after graduation, so my goal became to merge business and education to help every student find their purpose by reforming the way we talk about education and the system of administering K-12 education.

I wanted the education system to meet students where they are and help them find success through the traditional path, certificates, work-study programs, apprentice programs or a combination of approaches — in order to develop the workforce that is needed for our students and state to succeed.

Question: From your experiences, how can legislators position themselves as leaders on this issue?

Answer: We meet with constituents, organizations and all kinds of groups. This provides an invaluable resource to understanding the needs of employers today and provides a preview of what the future will look like for companies and organizations.

The state can’t solve workforce innovation on its own. However, we can assess the needs of workforce and students to help formulate a solution. I became the sponsor of legislation that reformed how we view education in Ohio by working with my local school officials who were struggling to align students with workforce needs and skills to succeed after high school. Together, we are now looking at education as a foundation for the future workforce, instead of in silos.

Question: How do effective new laws on workforce policy get made? Do you have any tips or ideas for fellow legislators?

Answer: Hear from all parties involved, those that agree and disagree with you, when creating new legislation so that you have all your facts in order. I spent considerable time learning about the educational system and what the baseline results were in our schools, including high rates of absence, low success rates, too many study halls, high remediation rates, and understanding the failure to help each student with finding and pursuing their purpose. Go directly to the sources of what you are trying to solve. In the case of education, employers and student-centered organizations provided their perspective on the problem and how to solve it.

Question: In Ohio, what specific successes or advances in recent years would you point to as being especially significant?

Answer: In 2023, I introduced Senate Bill 1, which reorganizes the Department of Education into the Department of Education and Workforce led by a cabinet-level director. The department’s focus became two-fold: primary and secondary education, and career technical education. Both our traditional and career-technical education divisions needed to work together so our students can experience an “all of the above” approach to their futures instead of a “one-size-fits-all” model. With both of these pillars of student success under one roof, I envision more communication and collaboration.

In addition, I introduced Senate Bill 166. It is designed to combat our high remediation rate in Ohio, and will help students identify their purpose and gain much-needed experience. Likewise, it will help employers find qualified, well-trained employees. It will incentivize business to hire student workers via tax incentives, providing students with a better perspective on careers.

Question: What are the most important workforce challenges for your state and other states to address?

Answer: The biggest barrier to success out of high school is the stigma associated with not going to college and getting a four-year degree. It is crucial that we change the way we view students going straight into a career. Career and technical education isn’t even “dirty jobs” anymore. Advanced manufacturing, coding, jobs in IT and the tech space are common options, and students can avoid much, if not all, of the debt associated with college. We need to encourage parents and students to explore what works best for their child and what the landscape of certificate-ready careers looks like.

Redesigning education and workforce is essential in every state. Some states have ramped up their efforts to customize education, but as a nation, we need to be focused on our youngest citizens who will be entering the workforce of tomorrow with all of its advancements and technology. We can empower educators and students with educational pathways that help a student find their purpose and provide them employment.

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