There is an important bill before the Maine Legislature — An Act to Improve the Quality of Teachers. The bill sets forth several steps for improving the quality of Maine teachers. As parents, we need new teachers to show strong potential to become good educators. This bill raises the bar to help ensure qualified, dedicated, professionally supported people will be teaching our children.

The legislation calls for raising the grade-point average required to become a teacher to 3.0 within the teacher preparation coursework. This is a reasonable requirement that should be met by anyone responsible for educating students.

The bill also expands the amount of practical experience education students receive before graduation. Requiring future teachers to have additional direct student engagement means newly minted teachers will have a broader range of skills and a greater understanding of classroom environments from the first day they are in charge of their own classroom.

Such requirements let education students know the people of Maine are serious about the quality of our children’s teachers. Raising the standard for potential teachers will increase families’ assurance about the professional quality of the people with whom our children will spend many hours preparing for their future.

Training doesn’t end with earning a teaching degree. On-the-job support is important to make the transition from student teacher to capable and independent classroom teacher.

The legislation calls for all new teachers to be mentored by experienced teachers and, in doing so, it recognizes the value of the experienced teachers already in our schools. Being a mentor requires many extra hours of work to frequently observe and consult with the new teacher. Increasing support for both newly hired teachers and for their mentors will support the development of the classroom leaders we need.

Our children’s teachers need to come from among the brightest and best. The greater a person’s abilities are the wider the array of options that will be available to that person.

Choosing a career path is an individual decision but several factors are likely weighed by most people. Feeling part of something respected is important. Knowing that one’s colleagues meet professional standards and care about their standard of work increases one’s own sense of professionalism and value.

For many people, future earning potential must also factor into decisions about career choices. To make teaching an attractive option for those who could choose from among many careers, and to keep new teachers in Maine, we need to make the pay more competitive by offering a base salary that better reflects the value of teaching and is more competitive than the current low base salary offered here in Maine. Increasing the base salary of teachers to $40,000 per year, as proposed in the bill, will be an investment in our future that will return high value. The incremental costs of meeting this minimum would be included in state funding as part of the school funding formula.

Maine citizens have repeatedly supported providing a good education to the children of our state. This bill continues that tradition. Considering the importance of education, both to society and to all of us as individuals, it is essential to ensure we have high-quality teachers.

New teachers arriving for their first day in the classroom are a better investment for all of us if they have been selected from those with the highest academic qualifications, have received sufficient practical training and understand they are joining the supportive ranks of professionals with high professional expectations.

An Act to Improve the Quality of Teachers will accomplish a core part of Maine’s work to ensure our children will become well-educated citizens ready for a productive future.

Virginia Mott is president of the Maine Parent Teacher Association.

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