Legislation that would establish a pilot teacher preparation program at Richard Stockton College for veterans who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001 was passed today by the Senate. Senator Christopher J. Connors is a prime sponsor of S-1026 along with Senator James Whelan. Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove are cosponsors of the identical companion measure (A-1294), which has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee.
Under the legislation, the 36-month teacher program would lead to a baccalaureate degree and completion of the requirements necessary to apply to the State Board of Examiners for a certificate of eligibility with advanced standing, which would authorize the veteran to seek employment as a teacher in grades K through 8, and in certain secondary education fields. Educational expenses incurred by these eligible students will be covered under the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” also known as the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“We are extremely proud to sponsor and fully support this initiative as the Legislative Representatives of Stockton College,” the 9th District Delegation remarked. “The ‘VETeach’ program is an innovative approach to address two key issues facing the state involving returning veterans and the state’s education system.
“While this legislation is geared toward opening additional career opportunities in the state for our veterans, the VETeach pilot program is also intended to address the shortage of public school teachers resulting from retirements. One of the critical provisions of this legislation is that it seeks to fast track veteran students toward a teaching degree by establishing a three-year program consistent with the provisions of the Post-9/11 GI bill.
“Creating economic opportunities for our veterans has become a pressing issue to address in light of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics which showed the unemployment rate for veterans who served since September 11, 2001, was 11.5% in 2010. These alarming statistics also showed the unemployment rate for veterans with higher levels of education was lower than for veterans with less education.
“Once the VETeach pilot program concludes, the Commissioner of Education would be required to report to the Governor and to the Legislature on the number of veterans enrolled in the program and the number of veterans hired as teachers in public or nonpublic schools. This information would then be factored into determining if the state should proceed with establishing similar programs on a permanent basis.”