AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter directing Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath to create a task force to help school districts address ongoing staffing shortages.
"Teachers play a critical role in the development and long-term success of our students," the letter says. "This task force should work diligently to ensure that best practices and resources for recruitment and retention are provided to districts to ensure the learning environment of Texas students is not interrupted by the absence of a qualified teacher."
Abbott asks the task force to investigate the challenges teacher vacancies are causing for school districts, explore best practices for addressing the shortage and research the possibility for flexibility of certification, placement and hiring.
The governor said the group should develop recommendations for regulatory and other policy changes at TEA to help fill vacancies.
Austin ISD is one of many Central Texas school districts facing a teacher shortage. In November, it reported more than 120 vacancies – many more job openings than the year before.
Austin ISD board members said the district is focusing on recruiting as well as retaining teachers already employed by the district.
The district is currently offering reimbursement to some teachers for alternative certification fees if they are certified in ESL (English as a second language). The Austin school district is also partnering with Huston-Tillotson University to offer more Black men teaching jobs in the district.
Additionally, Austin ISD is offering $19,000 in scholarships to six paraprofessionals in the district so they can get bachelor's degrees to teach.
Last year, the school board approved a $1,000 one-time bonus for part-time and full-time district employees.
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