VIRGINIA (DC News Now) — Some Virginia parents reacted to a push by legislators to tackle teacher and principal shortages in Virginia and other states.

“I definitely think it’s a good move,” said Shawnte Brown, a parent with a child in elementary school in Prince William County.

Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia and Susan Collins of Maine re-introduced a bill called “The Preparing And Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act,” which would help make sure there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills in the classroom.

Officials said the U.S. Department of Education data revealed a lot of states show teacher shortages in math, science, and special education.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine’s office said the state’s Department of Education reports there were more than 3,500 unfilled teaching positions across Virginia in the 2022-2023 school year.

“My child is in elementary school, but I have friends and other community activists that work at some of the Title I high schools, and I’ve definitely heard that there’s a big push to hire. They need teachers, they need administrators. And so I definitely know that in secondary school level that is the issue, at least in Prince William County,” said Brown.

The bill not only looks to address shortages in rural communities but will also focus on increasing teacher diversity.

“It definitely seems proactive to me,” said Brown. I mean, I definitely think that maybe some of the higher-ups are about time. But is definitely a proactive move for me personally, for him being elementary age,” Brown added.

Here’s what’s included in the Preparing And Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act

  • Expand the definition of “high need” districts under the Every Student Succeeds Act to include schools experiencing teacher shortages in rural communities as well as in areas like special education; English language; science, technology, engineering, math; and career and technical education (CTE) in order to give schools access to additional support. Having the “high need” label can provide additional federal resources.
  • Encourage school districts to create partnerships, including Grow Your Own programs, with local community colleges and universities to ensure their programs are educating future teachers in areas where there is a shortage of educators.
  • Set aside a separate fund of existing federal dollars for states to address state teacher and school leader shortages, improve educator preparation programs, and increase teacher and school leader diversity.
  • Require states to identify areas of teacher or school leader shortages by subject across public schools and use that data to target their efforts.
  • Increase support for educator preparation programs at minority-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities to support a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce. The majority of students in our nation’s public schools are students of color, and the teaching workforce is only comprised of 20 percent of teachers of color. Recruiting and retaining a racially diverse mix of teachers and school leaders have a strong positive effect on closing the achievement gap for students of color.

Prince William County Parent Shawnte Brown says diversity in race for teachers is important but just as important is diversity in gender.

“But also gender-wise, male teachers are actually definitely a scarcity. but just in my opinion, my son has a male kindergarten teacher and he does so well. he’s actually the favorite teacher,” Brown said. “So to have a male teacher is definitely helpful for that child’s education, their development,” she added.

Read more about the proposed bill here.