2016-04-15 / Community

Future of bill is unsure

Sen. Rebecca Millett criticized Republicans in the Maine Senate for opposing a bill that would help Maine solve the demographic crisis in its teaching corps by bolstering state efforts to recruit and retain new teachers.

The bill was defeated along party lines in a 19-16 vote.

Sen. Millett’s bill – LD 1370, “An Act to Improve the Quality of Teachers” – addresses the need to recruit and retain teachers by increasing the base salary from $30,000 to $40,000; increasing the required number of in-classroom weeks for student teachers and improving support for first-year teachers from experienced mentors in our schools.

“If we don’t address this crisis now, the future of our schools is dire,” Millett said. “By voting down this bill, opponents are guaranteeing future generations of students will learn in larger classes, will receive a less well-rounded education and will see diminished returns on their schooling. All this because they don’t want to pay teachers what they’re worth.”

In the next five to seven years, nearly one-third of Maine’s teachers will retire. Shortages in the subjects of ESL, gifted/talented, industrial arts, math, science, special education and world languages are particularly pronounced.

Among those new teachers who do enter the profession, studies show that many will leave the profession within five years.

Maine’s average starting teacher salary lags behind the rest of New England, and ranks 42nd nationwide. "My partner and I both have our masters degrees and are starting teaching careers," said Jessica Allen, a USM graduate who is entering the teaching profession. "But when we do our budget for the month, we're at negative $100. I love teaching, and I know that it's a well-respected profession, but I cannot pay my rent or my substantial college debt with respect."

The bill now heads to the House, for initial votes.

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