Legislators are considering several bills this session aimed at reducing the state’s shortage of teachers, education technicians and other school employees by easing the path to becoming an educator in Maine and attracting more people to those professions.

Members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee heard testimony Tuesday on three bills, and other measures also are working through the Legislature.

Students sit in a classroom at Loranger Memorial School in Old Orchard Beach in 2020. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

One of the bills heard Tuesday, sponsored by Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk, would allow retired educators to have their certifications reissued without having to return to school. Another, also sponsored by Rafferty, would pay for five positions at the state Department of Education to speed up the certification process. The third bill, sponsored by Rep. Arthur Bell, D-Yarmouth, would allow some prospective educators to skip a year of student teaching if they earn a certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

Schools in Maine and nationally have had staffing shortages for years, but the problem was exacerbated by the pandemic. In recent years, schools around the state have struggled to fill positions for administrators, education technicians, bus drivers and classroom teachers. The number of vacant positions in Maine schools is unclear because no one is keeping track.

The limited available data offers mixed messages about changes in the state’s education industry. Data from the Maine Public Employee Retirement System, for example, shows that although retirements have increased in recent years, so have the numbers of new educators joining the state’s public employee retirement system.

In 2022, 927 teachers retired, the highest number in seven years, according to MainePERS data. Over the same period, however, the number of new members joining the state’s retirement system has risen steadily. In 2022, 2,114 educators joined MainePERS. In 2021, that number was 2057, and in 2020, 1,521.


The number of students enrolled in University of Maine System education programs has also been climbing. In the 2021-22 school year, the latest for which data is available, 181 students were enrolled in one of the system’s education programs. In the school year prior, 141 students were enrolled.

Anecdotally, however, school districts have struggled to fill positions, and existing employees have had to pick up the slack, adding to already hefty workloads. That makes for challenging working conditions for educators, and a difficult learning environment for students, said Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt in an interview prior to Tuesday’s public hearings.

Leavitt said boosting the workforce will take significant recruitment and retention efforts, including improving working conditions, increasing pay and bolstering respect for the industry. The average starting teacher salary in Maine, $37,580 a year, is the lowest in New England and ninth-lowest in the nation, according to 2022 data from the National Education Association.

“Education has always been a challenging profession,” said Leavitt. “We need to be sure we are rewarding people with appropriate compensation.”

Other bills related to the educator shortage under consideration this session include one to allow educators certified in other states to work in Maine, and another to raise the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000 annually by the 2027-28 school year.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: