A new grant program, introduced by Governor Kim Reynolds on Thursday, will allow high school students in more than 130 Iowa school districts to begin training as paraeducators.
School districts throughout the state will share $45.6 million in grant money to launch two new apprenticeship programs for teachers and paraeducators. There will be a pathway for high school students and adults who want to become classroom aides and acquire a paraeducator credential while pursuing an associate’s degree. The second apprenticeship is for present paraeducators who want to achieve a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. A total of 500 new teachers and 500 new paraeducators might be certified as a result of this initiative, according to Reynolds.
The federal COVID-19 relief money is used to support the grant program. In order to provide apprenticeships, the funds will be distributed to 19 different school districts, several of which will work together with other districts in the area. There will be access to paraeducator or teacher apprenticeship programs in 134 Iowa school districts in the 2022-2023 school year.
At the time that Reynolds made the announcement on the grant program at her State of the State speech in January, she intended to contribute $9 million to the project. On Thursday, a record-breaking amount of grant money was announced: $45 million.
There has been an increase in applications and “the overwhelming response we received and the quality of applications,” said Reynolds spokeswoman Alex Murphy.
There has been a scarcity of teachers and personnel in Iowa schools for numerous years. School districts in central Iowa, including Saydel, have been scrambling to find qualified candidates to fill a wide range of positions, including teachers, paraeducators, bus drivers, cafeteria employees, and specialists in a variety of fields. There was a significant exodus of faculty members as the academic year came to an end. As of May, Axios Des Moines reported that more than half a thousand teachers in the Des Moines metro area have resigned, including over 300 instructors in the Des Moines Public School system. The apprenticeship program, according to Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, “will expand and create more opportunities for Iowans who might not otherwise believe that a career in education is possible.”
Many school districts in the Des Moines metro area will be engaged in the apprenticeship plans. A total of $1.1 million in grants will be awarded to Des Moines Public Schools and Waukee Community School Districts. In collaboration with Urbandale, West Des Moines, and Dallas Center-Grimes, the Johnston Community School District will receive a total of $3.7 million in state funding. An Iowa Department of Education grant will help 19 Iowa school districts establish paraeducator and teacher training programs. Several districts will collaborate with schools in nearby regions to offer apprenticeships.