New Bill Puts Qualified Teachers Where They’re Most Needed

Washington — The bipartisan First Focus Campaign for Children and more than 90 partner organizations Thursday released a letter endorsing legislation to help school districts serving a high proportion of children of color, children who are English language learners, and children in families with low incomes hire and retain highly qualified teachers. The Equal Access to Quality Education Act (H.R. 1334), sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27) and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas-15) seeks to ensure the equitable distribution of fully prepared and effective teachers to all students.

“Nearly 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, separate and unequal is still a reality when it comes to teacher qualifications – real change is decades overdue,” said Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley.

Independent analyses found significant teacher quality disparities in K-12 education today:

  • Schools with a majority of African American students are twice as likely to have teachers with only one or two years of experience than schools in the same district with a majority of white students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Research has concluded that some schools serving large populations of minority and low-income students are more likely to have less experienced teachers on the job, because of a cycle of hiring less-experienced teachers and high teacher turnover rates.
  • Teachers are at least twice as likely to teach a subject in which they do not have a major or certification in schools with higher population of students of color or low-income students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Chu’s legislation would establish competitive grants for local schools to partner with institutions of higher education to develop locally-focused teacher recruitment, training, and retention initiatives. Qualifying proposals would provide for professional development, mentoring, and training to meet the needs of diverse students, as well as a roadmap to leadership roles and other retention incentives for highly qualified teachers, to provide a stable and collaborative learning environment for educators and students. Grantees could also offer tuition assistance, scholarship and loan repayments for teachers, and proposals that employ a reliable teacher performance assessment system would be given funding priority. These objectives are intended to promote an approach to teacher recruitment, training, and retention that is both financially and culturally sustainable.

The Campaign for Children was one of more than 90 organizations to sign the letter, as part of the Coalition for Teaching Quality. This coalition is dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to highly qualified teachers.

“CEOs attract high-quality professionals every day by offering training, a peer support system, opportunities for advancement, and financial incentives. Congresswoman Chu’s bill uses the same tools to attract high-quality teachers to schools that need them most,” said Lesley.

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children's advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit

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