Significant Student Loan Debt Repercussions VEA Summit participants consistently talked about high rates of student debt as a huge barrier to candidates considering the profession. Overwhelmingly, participants talked about the need to reform current student loan programs and to implement additional programs for those choosing to teach. On average, a Virginia college student will graduate with a burden of $30,000 - $50,000 in loans. Facing an average starting salary below $40,000, new teachers find repaying those loans increasingly challenging. Adding to the hiring challenge, some of the Commonwealth’s school divisions with the highest needs have starting salaries below $35,000. The cost of repayment—weighed against low starting salaries and slow growth once hired—is an important factor in the decrease of the number of students entering teacher preparation programs and the ability to retain new teachers. Research shows that how willing a college graduate is to enter a lower-paying profession is tied to the level of student debt they expect upon graduation. Oftentimes, teacher preparation programs are five years, further increasing a new teacher’s debt. When one considers the overall cost of teacher preparation and compares it to the average salaries, there is less likelihood college students will choose teaching as a profession. Adding to the problem are the limited loan protection and loan support offered to college graduates, especially in the public sector.
• Expand the NEA Degrees Not Debt Program. • Initiate and support student loan reform legislation in Virginia including the Student Loan Bill of Rights and the Student Loan Ombudsman. • Expand loan forgiveness and incentive programs for students who choose to teach. • Expand the Virginia Teaching Scholarship Loan program.
About Our Work The Virginia Education Association held the inaugural Teachers of Color Summit in February 2017 in Richmond to bring attention to the critical shortage of minority teachers and to generate strategies to effectively recruit and retain teachers of color across the state. The 3-day convocation of students, teacher educators, K-12 and postsecondary administrators, retired educators, human resources professionals, community organizations, and policymakers engaged participants in a variety of discussions on topics such as mentoring minority students, equitable learning environments, and examining school policies and practices. The Summit offered professional development, networking opportunities, and collaborative thinking to examine the dearth of teachers of color and to illustrate the importance of increasing the number of teachers from under-represented groups. In addition to program features such as addresses by National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes and Virginia Teacher of the Year Dr. Toney McNair, Jr., students enrolled in teacher preparatory programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities attended the Summit and added valuable dialogue around loan forgiveness and assessments. At the conclusion of the Summit, participants made the following recommendations: • Study the entry and completion of teacher education programs • Create a pipeline to advance education as a career field • Provide mentoring and work-life-balance for teachers • Offer loan forgiveness to educators. This pamphlet further explores the findings from the Summit as we map the path forward.
VEA’s Commitment VEA members and staff are committed to addressing the recruitment and retention of teachers of color. What We Believe Minority and Male Teacher Shortage. The VEA believes that cooperative efforts should be undertaken to alleviate the minority and male teacher shortage in public schools. These efforts should include the areas of recruitment, hiring, training, and retention. Teacher Preparation. The VEA believes that pre-service teacher education programs should emphasize classroom practice and field-based experiences including classroom management techniques, practices compliant with the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and strategies to address students with special needs. Teacher Recruitment and Retention. The VEA believes that strong recruitment programs should seek out committed and qualified people to join the teaching profession, including those presently under-represented in this profession. The VEA further believes that teacher retention depends upon meaningful decision-making power and respect being accorded the classroom teacher. The Association will also update our belief statements to encourage and support teachers of color in Virginia. Delegates Take Steps At the VEA’s annual convention in April 2017, delegates committed the VEA to these actions: • Encourage locals to “adopt” college and university SVEA chapters in their areas • Continue to address the critical shortage of minorities in Virginia’s education work force, particularly, among males
Teachers of Color Summit | Call to Action
• Create a task force of VEA members to develop recommendations and share those recommendations with stakeholders in Virginia to implement policies and programs to address the shortage.