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Virginia announces $12m for recruiting and retaining teachers

The funding includes $2 million in grants to help school division employees obtain full state teaching licenses.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — There’s a teacher shortage across the country, including in the Commonwealth. Now, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is fronting big money to recruit and keep educators in the classroom.

Several school divisions in Hampton Roads are eligible for grants that will help people get full state teaching licenses.

Overall, VDOE is pumping $12 million into finding and keeping teachers in classrooms, and of that, $2 million will go toward helping teachers and other school staff to obtain their full state teaching license.

RELATED: Here's what Hampton Roads school divisions are doing to ease teachers' stress

"We do have challenges in finding people who are interested in teaching and able to meet the qualifications," said Jessica Duren, Chief Human Resources Officer for Portsmouth Public Schools.

A person must be licensed in order to teach in Virginia, but people can obtain a provisional license to teach and have about three years to complete the requirements for a full license. 

This grant would help staff to reach that goal.

Duren said teachers and school divisions are undergoing unprecedented times. 

"Across the board, across the nation, there is a shortage of teachers and Portsmouth is no different," she said.

The grant money is only available to school divisions where more than 10 percent of staff holds a provisional license, or five percent or higher for divisions with at least 1,000 teachers. 

According to the Virginia Department of Education, about 12 percent of teachers in Portsmouth Public Schools hold a provisional teaching license.

Other eligible school divisions include Hampton City Schools (12%), Newport News Public Schools (8.2%),  and Norfolk (9.4%). The percentages of provisional teaching licenses for each school division are based on data from the Virginia Department of Education in 2019.

Each division may apply for up to $100,000 over three years to help employees with tuition and fees for coursework completed at regionally accredited colleges and universities, according to VDOE. The grant money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. 

"We hope with this grant, we’ll be able to relieve some of the financial burden that may come along with taking those courses that they may need to take," said Duren. "In Portsmouth, our plan is to try to spread the wealth amongst as many people as we can." 

The school divisions have until January 10 to apply for the grant.

Duren said teachers in the division will need to apply for the grant and the division will decide who will receive the money.

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