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MDE awards $9.9M to five universities to curb teacher shortage

(WMC Action News 5)
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 11:24 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Five universities in Mississippi are receiving nearly $10 million from the state education department.

Through its Mississippi Teacher Residency Program, MDE is awarding $9,886,468 in grants to five universities in the state to cover tuition and expenses for up to 240 individuals seeking a graduate degree in elementary and secondary education.

MDE is using American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to cover the grants.

The funds will go to each universities’ educator preparation programs to encourage Education majors to seek a graduate degree and complete their Mississippi teacher certification.

Jackson State University is receiving the highest award, a total of $2,038,589.64.

Dr. LaKeshia Opara-Nadi, Assistant Professor of JSU’s Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education, couldn’t believe the news when she heard it Friday morning.

“Well, first I started screaming,” Opara-Nadi smiled.

The former K-12 teacher said the news couldn’t have come at a better time because the demand for teachers is far greater than the supply.

“The critical shortage need for teachers throughout the state, especially in those critical need areas, is very dire right now, to the point that a lot of teachers hold what are called emergency licenses,” Opara-Nadi said. “It does not secure a teacher profession for them. It just allows them to feel those areas where the need is significant.”

Opara-Nadi said that teachers are often stuck in a position as an assistant because they don’t have the funds or support to become certified.

“And so this grant will help those individuals reach that milestone of achieving a license; a standard professional license that will allow them to remain in those positions and not have to go year-to-year every three years and go through the process of trying to secure a job,” she added.

An MDE survey of all public school districts in the state from August to October 11, 2021, showed 3,036 certified teacher vacancies in Mississippi.

This Mississippi Teacher Residency Program is one of the state’s strategies to address the teacher shortage.

“At MDE, we are committed to developing more effective teachers, particularly for critical areas in Mississippi,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “We are delighted to collaborate with these five universities to not only eliminate students’ financial costs for a graduate degree but also equip potential educators with necessary tools inside and outside of the classroom.”

Opara-Nadi said the timing of this announcement couldn’t be more perfect. Due to COVID-19 and testing center closures across the state, the state removed the testing requirements for teacher candidates until December 31, 2021. After that, all testing requirements resume, and this JSU professor said a grant like this would help future teachers cross the finish line.

It includes training alongside a mentor teacher, testing support, professional development, ongoing assessment, and a commitment to teaching in a district serving low-income children, racial/ethnic minorities, and children with disabilities.

“With that waiver expiring, I’m excited that we have some other supports in place to help those who would like to be teachers.”

Here’s a list of what schools are receiving:

Delta State University

$ 951,463.20 (year one grant award)

$ 951,463.20 (year two grant award)

$ 1,902,926.40 (total)

Jackson State University

$ 1,019,294.82 (year one grant award)

$ 1,019,294.82 (year two grant award)

$ 2,038,589.64 (total)

Mississippi State University

$ 1,017,568 (year one grant award)

$ 1,019,012 (year two grant award)

$ 2,036,580 (total)

University of Southern Mississippi

$ 1,019,917 (year one grant award)

$ 1,019,909 (year two grant award)

$ 2,039,826 (total)

William Carey University

$ 929,003 (year one grant award)

$ 939,543 (year two grant award)

$ 1,868,546 (total)

Total Per Year

$ 4,937,246.02 (year one grant award)

$ 4,949,222.02 (year two grant award)

$ 9,886,468.04 (total)

Anyone accepted into the program will receive full scholarships, testing fees, books, and mentor stipends.

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