Bolstering teacher staffing at public schools struggling because of losses during the pandemic must never involve lowering standards, the Biden administration's education secretary warned Sunday.
In an interview on CBS News’ “Face The Nation,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona declared “our students should get more not less.”
“I do not support lowering any standards for qualifications with teachers,” he asserted. “I think we need to be creative in how we get the teachers in. For example, student teaching is four months of teaching without pay. I think we should use the American Rescue Plan dollars to get student teachers and give them a salary. Many people are leaving the profession or training programs for the profession because they cannot afford four months of teaching without salary. I think we need to raise the bar on making sure teachers are getting paid what they're due.”
He also lamented proposals to shorten the school week to compensate for fewer teachers.
“It concerns me,” he said. “Our students need additional support. They need smaller class sizes. They need tutors. They need after-school programs. So let's use the American Rescue Plan dollars to bring back retired teachers, to work with universities to make sure that our student teachers are starting a little bit earlier into their profession, using the dollars that were put forward by the federal government. We think it's important that our students get more this year, not less.”
According to Cardona, the teacher shortage also involves bolstering respect for the professionals along with a respectable salary.
“This teacher shortage is a symptom of something that's been going on for longer than the pandemic, and that's a teacher respect issue,” he said. “Unless we're serious about providing competitive salaries for our educators, better working conditions, so that they can continue to grow, and then including teacher voices in this process of reopening and reimagining our schools, we're going to constantly deal with shortage issues, especially in our areas that are harder to teach or where there are less candidates, like bilingual education administration.”
“We went from totally in-person learning to remote learning overnight,” he added. “Yet, the pandemic really pushed many of these educators out of the profession, because in many cases, you know, educators were not being respected when schools had to close. It created some tensions in our schools. We need to make sure we're supporting our educators, giving them the working conditions where they feel connected to the community and feel supported in the work that they're doing.
Cardona also decried the loss of students from some schools altogether.
“Many families moved out of cities,” he said.
“We see districts that are really focusing on resources, using the American Rescue Plan dollars to find those families and more importantly, giving them the support that they need. Oftentimes, it's not just education, you know, the families falling on hard times, or they've had loss in their family,” he said.
The education official also sought to allay concerns about the spread of monkeypox.
“We've been fighting from day one to increase vaccination efforts, to make sure that the schools have the tools for the mitigation strategies that they need, that we have information,” he said.
“Families shouldn't be worried right now about monkeypox, and that we have the tools that we need to give students vaccinations to keep them safe in our schools,” he insisted.
“I don't want families or schools to be thinking that they have to think about monkeypox the way we thought about COVID two years ago. We have better tools. We have what we need to make sure our schools can open safely.”
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