Scholarship program to combat teacher shortage

Once noted as one of the most noble career fields one could be in, the teaching profession has undoubtedly changed over the past twenty years. Schools all over the United States have been forced to confront the issue of widespread teacher shortage.

The Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, shows the number of students graduating with a degree in education and proper teacher certification have decreased significantly over the past decade. More than 2 million teachers will need to be replaced over the next 5 to 8 years.

Jerry Holt, a professor who has been teaching for nearly 44 years, agrees with the sentiments, stating “We need certified and qualified teachers, currently teachers are receiving temporary certifications and are assigned a class to be like placeholders.”

As of January 18 the Florida Senate Committee on Education has moved to petition for the Teacher Scholarship Program in hopes to recruit and retain teachers, according to Senate Bill (SB) 382.

The Teacher Scholarship Program, governed by District 3 Senator Bill Montford, is a scholarship designed to encourage students who exhibit academic excellence to pursue a career in education.

Although this crisis is tied to many deep rooted issues, most of them are derived from funding. Senior elementary education major and tutor, Kristen Tellis explained students lack of retention.

“Many people do not consider how challenging it can be to pass the necessary exams. Each exam is nearly $150, most people have to take the exam more than once,” said Tellis.

Tellis provides tutoring for Florida A&M University’’s College of Education students in the Candidates Empowerment Center. Her topics cover the FTCE General Knowledge exam, Professional Education exam, and the Subject Area exams, which are requirements to  be a certified teacher.

If this program is enacted, scholarship recipients can look forward to a $10,000 stipend after graduating and earning a classroom in a Florida public school. Holt described it as a “signing bonus” or  incentive for new educators.

The requirements for a scholarship recipient is to be a full-time upper-division undergraduate student eligible for state financial aid, scored in the 80th percentile on the SAT, minimum grade point average of 3.2 out of 4.0 and administrative referral or recommendation.

If approved, each institution will report names of qualified scholars to the Department of Education. Eligible graduate or undergraduate students may be awarded a scholarship of up to $5,000 per semester, not to exceed $10,000 per year, for 2 undergraduate years or for a maximum of 3 years, according to SB 382.

Interim Director of the candidates Empowerment Center in the COE, Ameenah Shakir said COE has many qualified students who will benefit if FAMU  implements the program.

“The Teacher Scholarship Program will provoke longevity within the teaching careers of its recipients. It will cut cost significantly for students attempting to pass exams like the G.K.,” Shakir said.

Set to be enacted on July 1, the list of qualified applicant names will be due by September 1.