Hochul proposes waiving retiree income cap, accelerating cerfitication amid NY teacher shortage

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A classroom in a school (Nexstar, file)

NEW YORK – Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to support the teacher workforce and rebuild the state’s school system in her 2022 State of the State address Wednesday.

The governor attributed a disruption to education and a vast teacher shortage to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The role of a teacher is irreplaceable in a child’s life and as the past two years have hammered home, they’re irreplaceable in a parent’s life, too,” the governor said during her address. “As a mother, I know this first hand. This workforce is also stressed and overworked. So we will ramp up efforts to recruit and retain teachers – with more effective training and support, faster and easier certification, and stronger career pipelines and ladders.”

Enrollment in state teacher education programs have decreased 53% since 2009, and about one-third of current teachers are projected to retire within the next five years, according to the Hochul.

Part of her solution to tackle a teacher shortage includes incentives for more teachers and school workers, accelerating teacher certification programs and creating mentor programs.

Waive income cap for certain retirees: There are about 169,000 retired teachers in New York State – many of whom could return and teach, but decide not to because they would not be able to receive pension payments if they receive school incomes over $35,000. Hochul plans to encourage teachers and other school workers to rejoin the workforce by waving the $35,000 income limit for certain retirees.

Expand Alternative Teacher Certification: The governor has proposed to expand alternative teacher certification programs, such as the New York City Teaching Collaborative, to make it easier and more appealing for professionals in other careers to become teachers. Those who aspire to become teachers would apprentice in high-need school districts while pursuing a master’s degree in their field. A stipend would also be provided.

Allow provisional school professionals in classrooms: Hochul has proposed to reform the current certification statute to provisionally approve teachers for immediate work if they meet coursework, fingerprint and background check requirements. Reforming the statute would allow candidates to teach while they wait for their State Education Department (SED) to complete its lengthy approval process. This provisional approval would not only be for teacher candidates, but extend to other SED-licensed professionals. Additionally, the SED approval to renew expired licenses would be waived for those with clean records, at least during the teacher shortage.

Create state teacher residency program: Hochul intends to create the Empire State Teacher Residency Program, which provides matching funding for local districts to create two-year residency programs for teacher candidates at the graduate level. The program will prioritize diversity among teacher residents and partnering mentors and will place an emphasis on high-need subject areas and geographic locations with teacher shortages.

Additionally, Hochul plans to fund new cohorts of the Master Teacher Program, provide funding for paraprofessionals to gain skills and credentials to become teachers and increase child care access for 100,000 families in the state.

The governor previously announced in October the state would deliver its promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and phase-in full funding to New York school districts by the 2023-24 school year.

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