Raise the Bar: Boldly Improve Learning Conditions

Raise the Bar: Boldly Improve Learning Conditions

Goal: Eliminate the educator shortage for every school by ensuring that schools are appropriately staffed, paying educators competitively, and strengthening pathways into the profession.

The Problem:

Every student should have access to outstanding, well-prepared, well-supported educators who reflect the diversity of the students they serve. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, from February to May 2020, the economy lost an estimated 730,000 local public education jobs—9 percent of all those jobs. There is good news: as of March 2023, public education recovered 600,000 of those jobs (82 percent). However, there are still 130,000 fewer people working in local public education than before the pandemic, and schools were already experiencing shortages before the pandemic began, with disproportionate impacts on students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.

Our schools still have a long way to go before they are fully staffed with educators who can meet the needs and reflect the diversity of our nation's students.

Our Strategies

Stabilize the Profession:

  • The Department is continuing to support states in using $122 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to eliminate educator shortages. Independent analysts have found that school districts plan to spend nearly $30 billion in ARP ESSER funds on staffing, including the recruitment, preparation, training, and retention of teachers.
  • In addition, the Department will continue to make clear how other program funds can be used to help sustain investments made with ESSER I, ESSER II and ARP ESSER funds.

Improve Teacher Compensation and Working Conditions and Promote Career Ladders for Teachers:

  • The Department will make clear how Title I can support investments in educators and continue to work toward increasing funding for this critical program, building on the additional $1.9 billion secured since fiscal year 2021. The Department also will provide technical assistance and oversight in the implementation of $2.2 billion in Title II formula funding for recruiting, preparing, and training high-quality teachers, principals, and other school leaders.
  • The Department will continue to emphasize the need for teachers to be paid competitively and use teacher compensation data to encourage states to better compensate educators.
  • Additionally, the Department will continue to highlight the importance of career ladders for teachers and invest in those efforts, including emphasizing how opportunities for teachers to lead beyond the classroom improves student learning, working conditions, and teacher retention.  For example, the Department has expressed in our budget proposals our desire to build on the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program's past support of projects that test, replicate and scale evidence-based practices for improving educator recruitment and retention. This includes providing more time for planning and collaboration; increasing access to leadership opportunities that can lead to higher pay and improved retention for fully certified, experienced, and effective educators; and expanding the impact of great teachers within and beyond their classrooms.

Support Effective New Teacher Induction and Ongoing Professional Learning:

  • The Department will continue to make clear how program funds can be used and invest new resources in teacher induction and ongoing professional learning programs for teachers.
    • To succeed in the classroom, new teachers need not only high-quality educator preparation programs with robust clinical experience, but effective induction programs that provide job-embedded professional development and support.
    • With the proper support and working conditions, teachers continue to grow in their practice over the course of their careers, which has a positive effect on student outcomes. The Department will continue to highlight and invest in high-quality professional learning programs and press for additional funding for the development of school leaders so that they can most effectively support the growth of their teachers, both through effective professional learning programs and supportive working environments.

Support High-Quality and Affordable Educator Preparation:

  • The Department is leveraging key grant programs to support high-quality and affordable educator preparation.
  • The Department of Education is continuing its partnership with the Department of Labor and its work with national education organizations to expand the use of high-quality registered apprenticeship programs for teachers. Since the launch of this work in August 2022, the number of states with approved registered apprenticeship programs have increased from two to sixteen.
    • Registered apprenticeship programs focus on combining classroom experience with coursework and support from master educators, rooting these programs in evidence-based principles of high-quality educator preparation. In addition, by allowing future educators to earn while they learn, apprenticeships make becoming a teacher more affordable, breaking down barriers to entering the profession—including for individuals such as paraprofessionals, who already may have decades of classroom experience. Registered apprenticeship programs can be used to scale established residency and Grow-Your-Own programs, bringing additional resources and supports to the table for these programs and for the future educators they support.
  • Additionally, the Department of Education will continue to advance proposed regulations to make income-driven student loan repayment more affordable than ever by proposing to halve monthly payments on undergraduate loans and reduce payments to $0 for borrowers earning under $30,000. This will help reduce student debt for teachers over the long-term, making it more affordable to become a teacher and enabling more teachers to stay in the profession.
  • And the Department addressed challenges with Public Service Loan Forgiveness, helping 360,000 public servants, including educators, receive $24.2 billion in immediate debt relief. Additionally, the Department addressed previous challenges with incorrect grant-to-loan conversions for TEACH Grants, making it easier for teachers to successfully participate in this program.

Promote Educator Diversity:

  • The Department will continue to use a range of federal grant programs to support teacher diversity throughout its efforts to recruit, develop, and retain teachers.   Bringing more and more diverse people into the teaching profession is critical to eliminating educator shortages and creating a stronger workforce. In addition, while teachers of color benefit all students, they can have a significant, positive effect on students of color. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 teachers are people of color, compared to more than half of K-12 public school students who are young people of color. Representation matters, and all students should have the opportunity to be taught by diverse educators.

Leverage Partnerships to Support Teacher Recruitment:

  • The Department is partnering with outside organizations to address educator shortages and has announced new private- and nonprofit-sector actions making it easier for Americans to find job opportunities in the education field, supporting school districts in competing for talent in the current tight labor market, and addressing the educator shortage in critical subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As part of this effort:

Sampling of ARP Funding Highlights:

Districts are estimated to spend $30 billion of their American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds on staffing, investing in teacher recruitment, development, hiring, and retention efforts. With the support of ARP funds:

  • Missouri and Maryland are creating Grow-Your-Own programs to hire additional, high-quality teachers. Maryland's program may train and support more than 300 new teachers and 100 new paraprofessionals and help more than 400 conditionally certified teachers pass licensure exams, while building sustainable pipelines.
  • Mississippi is funding a teacher residency program. The state also partners with local school districts and five university partners to grow its teaching ranks.
  • The Nevada Department of Education created the "Incentivizing Pathways to Teaching" Grant Program to grow Nevada's educator workforce.
  • Iowa is investing in the establishment of registered apprenticeship programs for teachers in 19 school districts across the state.

Grants and Resources:


  • To capture the ways in which the Department is working to support educators and eliminate the educator shortage at every school, the agency released a one-pager (en Español) with links to federal resources and grants.
  • The Department released a Dear Colleague Letter and factsheet encouraging states and districts to use ARP funds to address labor shortages, highlighting evidence-based strategies; and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh issued a joint letter calling on states to address the educator shortage by strengthening pathways into the teaching profession, including through the use of high-quality paid Registered Apprenticeship programs for teaching, and to ensure teachers are paid a livable and competitive wage.
  • The Department's factsheet, Sustaining Investments in Teachers Beyond the American Rescue Plan, highlights additional federal resources available to sustain ARP investments in key strategies that attract, prepare, support, and retain a diverse teacher workforce and address teacher shortages for the long-term.
  • The Department's Dear Colleague Letter and companion fact sheet underscores that Perkins funds can be used to improve the recruitment and preparation of future educators, including career and technical education (CTE) teachers.
  • And the Department continues to work with the Regional Education Laboratories and Comprehensive Center Network to provide technical assistance to support states and districts in addressing teacher shortages, including by improving retention.


  • More than $2 billion in federal funds through the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants (Title II, Part A) are being put to use to address inequities in access to effective teachers for underserved students, provide professional development, reduce class sizes, improve teacher recruitment and preparation, increase the diversity of the teacher workforce, and a wide range of other uses.
  • To increase the number of highly effective educators, the Department is investing $90 million to support the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators through the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program. In fiscal year 2023, the Department expect to award up to 15 new grants for evidence-based projects that promote educator diversity in equitable learning environments and that develop students' social and emotional skills.
  • More than $170 million in new awards and continuation grants for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive program are supporting high-needs schools to provide career advancement opportunities for effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders and to improve the process for recruiting, selecting, supporting, and retaining effective teachers and school leaders.
  • To better prepare and support our special education teachers, the Department is providing $115 million for IDEA Part D grants through new and continuation grants for the Personnel Preparation program.
  • The Department also is investing $70 million in high-quality teacher preparation programs, such as residencies and grow-your-own programs by awarding up to 20 additional grants in fiscal year 2023 for the Teacher Quality Partnership program.
  •  $15 million through the Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help to increase the number of diverse and talented teachers by funding programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions, and Tribal Controlled Colleges and Universities.
  • The Department also is providing additional resources to support teacher recruitment and retention through the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program.

Goal: Invest in every student's mental health and well-being by increasing school-based health services for students and building schools that support students' overall well-being.

The Problem:

When students feel connected to school, their mental health and academic performance improve; however, the consequences of the pandemic—social isolation, illness, and family hardship among them—have led to decreased feelings of connectedness for students. For example, approximately 1 in 3 high school students have experienced poor mental health amid the pandemic, and rates of poor mental health have been higher for historically marginalized groups of students. For students to thrive in school, they need a strong foundation of overall wellness.

Our Strategies:

Increasing the Supply and Capacity of School-Based Mental Health Providers:

  • To meet President Biden's goal of doubling the amount of mental health professionals in schools, the Department will assist states so they may recruit and retain mental health professionals and offer professional development for teachers around trauma-informed practices.
  • The Department also will continue to provide guidance, oversight, and technical assistance to states to implement efforts supported by $2 billion in funding through Stronger Connections grants, the School-Based Mental Health Services program, and the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration program under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. More information about these programs is provided below.

Increasing Access to Reimbursement for School-Based Health Services:

  • The Department of Education is collaborating with the Department of Health and Human Services to increase access to school-based health services by assisting state educational agencies and local educational agencies to maximize the benefits of the Medicaid program by providing health and mental health services at school to Medicaid-enrolled children. The Department of Education also will engage in rulemaking to simplify the process for parents of students with disabilities in schools.
  • The Department will release a technical assistance guide on Medicaid school-based services to help schools work with their Medicaid agencies. The Department also will include a technical assistance center to help states shape policies that allow them to financially sustain essential health and mental health services.

Sampling of ARP Funding Highlights:

  • Through the American Rescue Plan's (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund, approximately $1 billion has been dedicated to support the mental health and overall well-being of students and school staff across the country, according to calculations by the Council of Chief State School Officers' COVID Relief Data Project. For example:
    • The District of Columbia has committed $1 million in ESSER II funds to Educator Wellness Technical Assistance grants. These grants will be used to address root causes of educator stress and to adopt and implement educator wellness programs in 25 public and public charter schools.
    • The Illinois State Board of Education has committed $23.5 million to launch the Resilience Education to Achieve Community Health (REACH) initiative and to establish seven regional Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Hubs. Through this statewide initiative, school communities participate in a trauma assessment and action planning to address the mental and social-emotional health needs of students and staff. Teams at 270 schools participated in professional development collaboratives to better understand and address trauma.
    • The Iowa Department of Education committed up to $20 million to support a partnership with the University of Iowa's College of Education Baker Teacher Leader Center to develop the Iowa Center for School Mental Health. The center will expand training opportunities for student teachers and practicing teachers, provide professional development resources and services to support mental health needs in schools, and support research on the effective delivery of these services to students. As part of this partnership, the University of Iowa asked institutions of higher education to apply for grants to support research to improve social, emotional, or behavioral outcomes for students in P-12 schools.

Grants and Resources:

  • Nearly $1 billion in funding through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act's Stronger Connections program is helping states to support safe, inclusive, and welcoming learning environments for all students.
  • The Department awarded $46 million in competitive grants to 67 states, school districts, and institutions of higher education through the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration program. Nearly half of the awardees included a partnership with a Minority Serving Institution, Historically Black College or University, or Tribal College. With these funds, grantees will train school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools and districts.
  • Through the School-Based Mental Health Services program, $141 million is helping 103 grantees—including states and districts—to increase the capacity of school-based mental health service providers to deliver services to students.