As school districts across New Jersey struggle to hire new teachers and retain existing staff, Gov. Phil Murphy is creating a task force to come up with strategies of addressing both issues.

The shortage has existed for years, but was made worse by the pandemic and the stresses of remote learning.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, New Jersey has teacher shortages at all grade levels across multiple subjects, including math and science.

Murphy says the new task force will be comprised of up to 25 members whose goal is to "better understand the challenges facing our educational workforce and what we can do to help."

Members will be drawn from a variety of educational backgrounds and include New Jersey school superintendents, teachers, union representatives and other stake holders.

"The teacher shortage is real in New Jersey," said Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.

Those who manage school districts in New Jersey don't see the issue getting better in the short term.

"Before where we may have received a hundred applications for a third grade gen-ed teaching position, we now only receive about a dozen," said Thomas Farrell, superintendent of Brick Township Public Schools. "Some specific, more highly-qualified positions that require dual-certification are even harder to fill. Substitutes are hard to find as well."

A number of proposals have been made in recent months to try and address the issue, including student loan forgiveness for educators and teacher bonuses.

Murphy has agreed to do away with a state-mandated teacher licensing test that many suggested was adding to the teacher shortage, but says the state will need to come up with a replacement to ensure the integrity of the licensing process.

He has not, however, signed legislation strongly supported by the New Jersey Education Association that would eliminate a requirement that New Jersey teachers live in the Garden State.

NJEA President Sean Spiller said there is no need for a residency requirement "when we're trying to take any educator we can get."

In his executive order authorizing the new task force, Murphy did not set a timeline for the first meeting, or a deadline for making recommendations.

Previous reporting by Dino Flammia was included in this article.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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