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Youngkin to cut red tape to reduce teacher vacancies | Virginia

(The Center Square) — To reduce the number of teaching vacancies, Governor Glenn Youngkin has issued an executive directive that will cut red tape that prevents qualified people from getting teaching jobs.

“We will let high-quality teachers teach,” the governor said at a news conference Thursday.

The executive directive directs Superintendent of Education Jillian Balow to issue teacher licenses and renewal licenses to retired teachers and out-of-state teachers. He also asks her to work with the Virginia Retirement System to ensure that K-12 vacancies are filed so that retired teachers can fill them.

According to the National Education Association, the number of teachers in the Commonwealth fell from 102,031 to 99,783 from the 2013-2014 school year to the 2020-2021 school year, a reduction of 2.25%. However, during the same period, enrollment fell from 1,279,544 to 1,167,512 students, representing a larger drop of 8.76%. The Virginia Department of Education does not yet have student-teacher ratios for the 2022-23 school year, but several school divisions have reported vacancies they are unable to fill.

“When we have a shortage of teachers and we try to fill the gap, we have to work very hard in order to close the teacher gap as well,” the governor said.

The directive also directs Education Secretary Aimee Guidera to work with other government agencies to reduce red tape while maintaining high standards. The reduction in bureaucracy will be designed to recruit more teachers, career changers, military veterans and other professionals who would be an asset to students in the classroom.

Under the directive, officials will work to establish a pipeline of K-12 teachers with a no-fee learning program. The state will also expand its annual survey of school divisions to identify vacancies and develop a survey for teachers to assess what is working and one for departing teachers to determine why they are leaving their jobs.

The Virginia Department of Education also launched the Bridging the Gap plan on Thursday, which is designed to recoup some of the learning losses caused by the lack of in-person education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan will create a pilot program with 15 school divisions. It aims to improve how the Commonwealth uses data to better support students who are performing poorly in the classroom.

“From today, the data will be used as a flashlight and not a hammer in the Commonwealth,” Guidera said. “We’re going to make sure people are empowered with data, they’re informed with data, and they’re using data to improve outcomes for all of our children in the Commonwealth.”

Guidera said the program will try to determine the best ways schools can tell if their students are “on the path to success.” It will also seek to determine the best way for teachers to communicate information to parents and develop ways to provide personalized education and interventions to children who are off track.

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