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Briefing | March 20, 2024

Tackling Critical Teacher Shortages: Insights on Federal Policies & Programs

An empty classroom.

Hosted by the Learning Policy Institute

Sponsored by the Offices of Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Co-sponsored by AACTE; AASA, The School Superintendents Association; American Association of State Colleges and Universities; the American Federation of Teachers; Council for Exceptional Children; Higher Education Consortium for Special Education; NAACP; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; National Center for Learning Disabilities; National Education Association; National Urban League; Southeast Asia Resource Action Center; Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children; and UnidosUS

Widespread teacher shortages have been a concern for decades and were greatly exacerbated when the stressors of the pandemic further drained the teaching workforce. In the 2022-23 school year, all 50 states reported shortages in more than one area, with especially widespread shortages of special education teachers, science teachers, and math teachers. A 2023 analysis found that more than 300,000 positions were left vacant or filled by teachers not fully certified for their assignments, representing about 1 in 10 of all teaching positions nationally. Shortages are most severe in schools with higher numbers of students of color and those from low-income families.  

To handle the shortages, schools have increased class sizes, canceled course offerings, added additional duties to teachers’ already heavy workload, and hired substitutes or underqualified individuals to fill the positions—all of which undermine students’ learning. This all comes at a time when communities, in the wake of the pandemic, are focused on learning recovery for students. 

Federal policy offers some promising pathways to strengthen teacher recruitment, preparation, and retention, increase teacher diversity, and address teacher shortages. Yet the federal government’s toolkit to strengthen the educator workforce remains underfunded, underutilized, and in need of enhancement. During this briefing, speakers discussed research on the state of the educator workforce, evidence-based approaches to address teacher shortages, and more robust federal strategies that could help ensure that every student has access to a well-prepared, diverse, and stable educator workforce. 


  • Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) (welcoming remarks)
  • Ternesha Burroughs, Secondary Math Teacher, Osseo School District; President, Education Minnesota–OSSEO
  • Michael DiNapoli, Jr., Deputy Director of Federal Policy, Learning Policy Institute 
  • Susan Kemper Patrick, Senior Researcher, Learning Policy Institute
  • Jacqueline Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer, National Center for Learning Disabilities  
  • Clifton Tanabe, Dean, College of Education, the University of Texas–El Paso 
  • Reggie White, 2022–2023 Alabama Teacher of the Year; District Mentor Teacher, Birmingham City Schools 

Speaker Biographies

Click to read more about each speaker.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Senator Tim Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and serves on the Armed Services; Budget; Foreign Relations; and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees. As Cochair of the bipartisan Career and Technical Education Caucus, he focuses on expanding access to job-training programs to ensure that students of all ages are prepared with the skills they need for the jobs of the modern economy. 

Kaine was first elected to office in 1994, serving as a City Council Member and then as Mayor of Richmond. He became Lieutenant Governor of Virginia in 2002 and was inaugurated as Virginia’s 70th Governor in 2006. Prior to holding public office, Kaine practiced law in Richmond for 17 years, specializing in the representation of people who had been denied housing due to their race, disability, or family status. He also taught law part-time at the University of Richmond.

Ternesha Burroughs 

Ternesha Burroughs has taught in Minnesota since 2001, teaching middle school and high school math at Title I schools in Osseo Area Schools for most of her career. In July 2023, Burroughs was elected President of her union, Education Minnesota–OSSEO.

Michael DiNapoli Jr.

Michael A. DiNapoli Jr. serves as Deputy Director of Federal Policy for the Learning Policy Institute. DiNapoli has more than a decade of experience working in public education as a classroom teacher, a policy advisor on Capitol Hill, and a legislative affairs staffer for the New York City Department of Education.

In New York City, DiNapoli began his career as a classroom teacher and later served as the Director of City and Federal Legislative Affairs for the city’s Department of Education. During his nearly 8 years on Capitol Hill, he had the honor of working on education policy for two members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. As a legislative aide for Senator Tammy Baldwin, he helped advance her education priorities in the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. As the lead education staffer for Senator Bernie Sanders, DiNapoli served as the point person for all education policy matters for the senator in his role as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as a senior member of the Senate HELP Committee. In this role, one of DiNapoli’s signature accomplishments included drafting the second iteration of the senator’s plan to make public colleges tuition- and fee-free.

DiNapoli received a BA in Political Science with honors from The George Washington University.

Susan Kemper Patrick

Susan Kemper Patrick is a Senior Researcher on the Educator Quality team at the Learning Policy Institute (LPI). After working in schools as a middle school teacher and volunteer coordinator, Patrick now does research that examines inequities in the learning opportunities available to both students and their teachers. At LPI, Patrick’s work focuses on understanding the experiences of teacher and administrator candidates in California. Prior to joining LPI, she served as a postdoctoral researcher for the Tennessee Education Research Alliance, a research–practice partnership between the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt University.

Patrick received a PhD in Educational Leadership in Policy from Vanderbilt University; an MEd in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies from Vanderbilt University; and a BA in African and African American Studies from Duke University.

Jacqueline Rodriguez

Jacqueline Rodriguez is the Chief Executive Officer at the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), where she leads a team at the forefront of the learning disabilities rights movement. Rodriguez and her team develop impactful strategies, forge partnerships, make policy recommendations, and conduct research to improve the lives of individuals with learning disabilities and attention issues. 

Prior to joining NCLD, Rodriguez held various leadership roles in education and advocacy, including as Vice President for Research, Policy, & Advocacy at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She is also an esteemed educator, professor, and mentor, as well as the author of the book Special Education Law and Policy: From Foundation to Application. She serves on various boards to create positive change and support further research and scholarship in the educational landscape. 

Rodriguez holds a PhD in Education with a focus on exceptional education from the University of Central Florida, where she was a McKnight Doctoral Fellow and an Order of Pegasus Awardee. She holds an MA in Special Education with a learning disabilities specialization from American University and a BA in International Affairs and Latin American Studies with a concentration in International Development, Culture, and Society from The George Washington University. 

Clifton Tanabe

Clifton S. Tanabe is Dean of the College of Education and a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations at the University of Texas at El Paso. Tanabe is the founder and former Co-Director of the Research Center for Cultural Diversity and Community Renewal at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He is the former Chief of Staff at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, where he also served as the Director of the Leaders for the Next Generation program and as Co-Director of the Hawaii Education Policy Center. Tanabe’s scholarly interests include K–12 and higher education law and policy, educational and political philosophy, and educational access. His work can be found in publications such as Teachers College Record, Philosophy of Education Society, Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education, Educational Change, and Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal

Tanabe has a PhD in Educational Policy Studies and a law degree, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reggie White

Reggie White is a National Board Certified Teacher with more than 27 years of experience in public education in Birmingham City Schools (BCS). As the district’s Mentor Teacher, he plays a critical role in guiding and supporting new teachers and candidates for National Board certification. White is a dedicated educator, a mentor, and a firm believer in the boundless possibilities and the transformative power of education. He created the BCS Collaborative Network, which provides vital insights into instruction, technology integration, and student achievement. He advocates at the state and national levels and contributes to educational improvement through policy discussions. Named the 2022–23 Alabama Teacher of the Year, White demonstrates his commitment to lifelong learning through responsive teaching practices and strategies for guiding struggling students to achieve academic success. 

White holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a master’s degree, and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from Alabama State University.

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