Ruiz Advances Bill Package to Increase Teacher Diversity

Trenton – The Senate today advanced a package of bills sponsored by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz aimed at increasing diversity in the state’s education workforce, preventing teacher shortages and cultivating inclusive learning environments.

“We have been working hard for the past several years to cultivate an educator workforce that reflects the diversity of our state. During our hearing on teacher diversity, we heard from countless educators and advocates on the numerous factors contributing to the jarring fact that roughly one in 163,000 students in the state never see a classroom leader of color during their time in school,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “The challenges New Jersey faces with its teacher workforce is not unique to our state, but the pathways this package creates will put New Jersey at the forefront of expanding our pool of educators. It will create new avenues for individuals to enter the profession, especially in high-need areas and ensure individuals are supported so they can excel in the classroom. The bill package will help us strategically plan for the classroom of the future and the professional that will lead it.”

“It is crucial that we are fostering inclusive learning environments in our classrooms, which starts with our educators unpacking any implicit bias they may hold,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Requiring cultural competency training for all of our teachers will ensure they can identify microaggressions, understand the impact they have on students and know how to address them when they occur. These trainings will equip our teachers with the skills and understanding to cultivate accepting and inclusive classrooms for all of our students.”

“It's a simple fact - representation matters. We need diverse role models for Black and Brown children to look up to, and this includes teachers," said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). “The importance of these kids seeing someone who looks like them, not only in leadership positions but leading their classrooms, cannot be overstated. Not only does it improve the quality of education for all students, but it opens the horizons for minority students and expands their perspective on what they can achieve.”

“This teacher residency program will provide an enriching and accessible pathway towards a lifelong career in education,” said Senator Shirley Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “For college students pursuing a degree in education, student teaching is a required step; however, it is unpaid and takes up a significant amount of time which would conflict with having a part-time job. With this program, high school students who aspire to become teachers could receive stipends for their residency, allowing them to earn money while gaining relevant career experience and working towards their degree.”

The bills are:

S.2826, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Sandra Cunningham, would require the State Board of Education to establish procedures for the issuance of a limited certificate of eligibility for certain teacher candidates. Following two effective or highly effective evaluations, the teacher would be eligible for a standard instructional certificate. The bill was released by a vote of 37-0.

S.2827, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Cunningham, would require teachers to biennially complete two hours of professional development related to cultural competency. The instruction would include personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, acts of microaggression in the classroom, and implicit bias. The bill was released by a vote of 25-10.

S.2829, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Troy Singleton, would establish the “Male Teachers of Color Mentorship Pilot Program” and appropriate $50,000 to fund the program. The bill was released by a vote of 38-0.

S.2830, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Singleton, would require educator preparation programs to report passing rates of students who complete certain tests and to disseminate information on test fee waiver programs. The bill would also permit the collection of a student fee for certain testing costs. The bill was released by a vote of 37-1.

S.2833, sponsored by Senator Ruiz and Senator Shirley Turner, would establish the teacher residency program. The program would offer stipends and provide participants with the education and field experience necessary to obtain a New Jersey certificate of eligibility with advance standing, a credential that allows an individual to seek and accept employment as a public school teacher. The bill was released by a vote of 36-2.