Teachers and parents rally around Polis’s latest education bill
Washington: Momentum is growing for Rep. Jared Polis’s Teachers Are Leaders Act! The National Education Association (NEA), national PTA, and a growing group of teachers are now rallying around the bipartisan legislation.
Polis first introduced the bill in early May with Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind. It provides teachers with more ways to advance while also staying in the classroom. Studies say teachers are leaving the classroom, at a rate of eight percent, because of lack of opportunity.
“A good teacher is the most important factor in a student’s success. For too long, we have neglected our teachers by not providing them with opportunities to grow and excel as the leaders they are. The Teachers Are Leaders Act - which was drafted with the help of teachers - empowers school districts to develop new leadership opportunities for their teachers. I’m honored that NEA, PTA, teachers throughout Colorado and the nation, and so many others are rallying around this bill,” said Polis.
The Teachers Are Leaders Act addresses attrition by allowing grants from the Teacher Quality Partnerships to be used to cultivate leadership opportunities. Grants could be used to carry out programs in peer coaching, school climate and discipline planning, and developing new dual enrollment courses. Teacher-leader roles have been shown to improve recruitment and retention, particularly for low-performing school.
“As a teacher with 23 years of experience I can say I am still in the classroom because of my leadership opportunities. With leadership I have gained a sense of agency that translates into my willingness to be held accountable for the work I do since I have the opportunity to impact the policies that affect my practice,” said Mark Sass, Teacher in Broomfield.
“Teacher leadership opportunities are the highest leverage point for retaining the nation's strongest teachers. When we are granted these opportunities, our professional skill is elevated, our experienced voice is put to work, and above all, our students make the most critical growth,” said Kathleen Campbell, Teacher in Denver.
"Promoting teacher leadership is essential to retaining teachers in the workforce. This bill would not only have a direct and positive impact on current teachers, but also make the teacher profession more attractive for new teachers. We recognize this is an important issue and that is why CU Boulder’s School of Education is currently planning a master’s degree in teacher leadership that would include a track for bilingual teachers,” said Kathy Schultz, Dean, School of Education, University of Colorado at Boulder.
In 2017, the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Higher Education embarked on a months-long project to better understand and address Colorado’s statewide teacher shortage. The report identified opportunities for career and leadership advancement as a strategy for teacher retention and a tool for addressing the state’s teacher shortage. The Teachers Are Leaders Act could provide grant funding to help Colorado achieve the goals outlined in the state’s strategic plan.
"When schools leverage teachers' strengths through leadership positions, they open up powerful pathways for mentoring, building partnerships and strengthening systems. These opportunities not only lead to innovation and growth for the school, but provide the teacher leader with a renewed sense of sustainability and purpose,” said Kate Klaver, STEM Coordinator, Adams 12 Five Star Schools.
For further details on the bill, download the fact-sheet here.
It is supported by:
Polis serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He is the top-Democrat on the Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee and a member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee. Polis has opposed attempts by President Trump and Sec. DeVos to defund public education.
He is a co-sponsor of the Innovations to Recruit and Retain Excellent Teachers Act, which would improve compensation for teachers. He authored the Great Teaching and Leading for Great Schools Act, which would provide protected release time for teachers to engage in collaborative professional development. He also authored the Defending Special Education Students and Families Act, which would fully fund special education.
Polis is the former chair of the Colorado State Board of Education, and the founder and former superintendent of The New America School - a network of charter schools in several states serving new immigrants and English-language learners - as well as the Academy for Urban Learning for homeless and at-risk youth.