State Passes New Law Targeting Teacher Shortages, Creates New Pathways for Aspiring Educators

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In an effort to reduce longstanding teacher shortages, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law in September creating new pathways to the classroom for would-be teachers who lack the proper credentials.

Under the law, the state Department of Education will create a five-year pilot program in which officials will issue “limited certificates of eligibility” to prospective teachers to fill vacancies in schools with critical staff shortages, wide demographic disparities between the student body and the teaching staff, or a scarcity of bilingual education teachers.

Teachers approved for the special certificates can get a standard instructional certificate if they are deemed effective in at least two evaluations.

To participate in the program, schools must be approved by the education commissioner and show they can provide support for the new teachers.

The pandemic has shined a spotlight on long-standing teacher shortages and educational disparities, and left students struggling to overcome a learning loss caused by a shift to remote schooling and other disruptions.

“We have to be sure we are providing our districts with every resource we can think of to work towards closing the achievement gap, which has widened over the last 18 months,” Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the Senate education committee, said in a statement.

The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Ruiz and Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson) and Assemblywomen Annette Quijano (D-Union), Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden), and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer).

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