In response to a national survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the United States Department of Education, Governor Phil Murphy has signed an executive order establishing a new task force to help address the state’s school staff shortages.
As stated in the order, the new task force would report directly to the Governor’s Office and consist of no more than 25 members, including the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, school administrators,
members of the New Jersey Education Association of School Administrators, and superintendents who each represent a unique and distinct segment of the state’s diverse student population.
“New Jersey takes great pride in the quality of the public K-12 education we offer our children,” stated Murphy. The nationwide shortage of qualified educators is putting a significant strain on the United States educational system, and unfortunately, our state is no exception.
Teachers and other school staff are more important than ever because of the critical need for learning recovery and acceleration and mental health support for our students. According to data gathered by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), the number of teachers licensed in the state has dropped by 25% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The governor’s press release said, “This task force will help us better understand how we can address ongoing shortages in our state to grow this critical workforce on behalf of New Jersey’s students.”
A conservative public policy think tank, American Enterprise, has been providing a nationwide enrollment tracker that shows that most states have seen declining enrollment for two years in a row.
Approximately 18,000 fewer students enrolled in New Jersey’s traditional public schools between September 2016 and August 2018 than enrolled between the same months in the previous school year, according to data compiled by New Jersey Monitor.
Traditional public school enrollment in New Jersey declined by 2.62 percent over the previous two years. During the prior two years, the decline averaged about 1.81 percent. The NCES polled all 600+ districts in the state in December 2021 and again in February 2022 to find out what percentage of their students were either physically present at school or attending online for the full day.
For the 2022-2023 school year, most of the state’s largest urban school districts, including those in Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Camden, New Brunswick, and Trenton, have announced that they will implement remote learning.
To better understand the state of the teaching profession in New Jersey, the governor earlier this year signed an order requiring the NJDOE to compile a detailed report on the number of open, new, and eliminated teaching positions, the expected number of upcoming retirements, and the reasons why teachers are leaving their jobs.
In addition, the order specifies that each year the Commissioner shall prepare a report detailing the trends in teacher retention at the state, county, and district levels, as well as any recommendations for enhancing teacher retention.
According to the Hudson Reporter, the Jersey City Public School district approved a $973 million school budget for the 2022-2023 school year, an increase of $159 million from the previous year’s budget, and the district is projected to lose around $68.5 million in K-12 state aid as a result.
New Jersey Education Association president Sean Spiller said, “The teacher and staff shortage is real and it is affecting students, including many of the most vulnerable students who are not receiving the full report they need and deserve.” “The task force will bring together experts, including practitioners at the classroom level who experience this challenge on a daily basis and are committed to overcoming it.”