HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and education leaders rolled out a series of proposals Tuesday that they said would help fill about 1,300 public school teaching positions, plus 1,300 paraeducators jobs, in the state.

The three-point plan, a $3 million initiative led by the state’s education and labor departments, involves creating a new teacher Registered Apprenticeship Program, spending more money on paraeducator job fairs and expanding the state’s grow-your-own program from 15 school districts to 33, which recruits and trains teachers from the communities where they live and work. 

“I’m so proud of this program,” Lamont said. “I’m so proud of the fact that we are getting people exposed to teaching at a much earlier age, and frankly, having someone a little closer to your age as a mentor as a teacher is not a bad thing for that sixth grader either. We need you more than ever, teachers. Thanks for everything you do.”

The Registered Apprenticeship Program offers teachers-in-training the opportunity to be hired, paid and mentored. New Britain and Waterbury Public Schools are piloting the program.

“Rather than having a student teacher pay for the opportunity to student teach, and sometimes not have the opportunity to be working and earning money, this means that this student-teacher is an employee from day one,” Dante Bartolomeo, the commissioner of the department of labor.

Dr. Verna Ruffin, Waterbury’s superintendent, said the program is helpful because they’re facing more than 100 vacancies, putting a strain on current teachers and schools.

“While people have willingly taken on more classes, and in some instances, more teachers, it is definitely something that drains you to be able to do that on a continuum,” Ruffin said.

Isaias Rodriguez Sanchez, a sophomore at New Britain High School, is pursuing a career in education and wants to be part of the answer to a challenging task.

“A lot of people are struggling to find a solution for it, and I’m hoping to give you that solution,” Rodriguez Sanchez said.

According to state officials, recent survey data shows that over 60% of the vacancies are in the state’s Alliance Districts. Nearly half of all teaching vacancies are in special education, math, or science, while almost three-quarters of all paraeducators vacancies are in special education.

The Lamont administration said staffing levels increased by 4% between the 2018-2019 and 2021-2022 school years, representing an increase of more than 4,000 full-time equivalent staff in schools and districts in the state. The percentage of educators of color working in schools has increased to 11.2% in 2022-23, up from 8.3% in 2015-2016, adding 1,649 new diverse educators.

State officials said above-average increases in staffing levels were seen in the following areas:

  • General education – paraprofessional instructional assistants (12% increase)
  • Counselors, social workers, and school psychologists – district central office (13% increase)
  • Instructional specialists who support teachers – certified (16% increase)

The video below aired in our 6 p.m. newscast on May 16, 2023.