Virginia colleges work with local school systems to address staffing challenges

Welcome to the School Zone, WTOP’s weekly feature about the latest topics and trends in education across the D.C. region. WTOP’s Scott Gelman takes a closer look at the issues and how they affect your kids. If you have story ideas or suggestions, email Scott at

9 Va. colleges receive funding to help local counties expand teaching pipeline

What it is: Late last month, Virginia state Superintendent Jillian Balow announced a $143,000 investment in grants to nine universities across the state.

The investment, Balow said in a news release, was made to help the universities create teacher apprentice residency programs as part of partnerships with surrounding school systems.

Balow said the goal is for Virginia school systems to fill positions like classroom aides, paraprofessionals and substitute teachers while giving students real-world experience as they work toward becoming fully-licensed teachers.

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Ultimately, the investment aims to expand the number of teachers in the state, as many school districts across the D.C. region and the country remain short-staffed.

It’s also part of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s plan to address teacher shortages in public schools across the state.

What it means: Balow, in the news release, said the apprenticeship planning grants are aimed to build off existing residency programs in local school systems.

Fairfax County, for one, introduced such a program at the start of the school year. The program helps place teachers in classrooms while they take final steps toward receiving their certifications. One teacher in the program told me in August it was appealing, because she already had out-of-state teaching experience but needed to finish becoming certified locally.

Regional snapshot: As part of the investment, George Mason University is receiving a $20,000 grant to establish a partnership with schools in Manassas Park, Fairfax County and Loudoun County.

Virginia Commonwealth University is getting $16,000 to partner with Prince William, Fairfax and Surry counties.

Other participating universities include Bluefield University, William & Mary, Old Dominion University, Radford University, University of Mary Washington, University of Virginia’s College at Wise and Virginia State University.

By the numbers
Some data that caught my eye this week.

Education budget: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin unveiled the highlights of his proposed two-year budget this week. It includes $1 billion in tax relief and income tax cuts. In a tweet thread, Youngkin said his proposal includes an additional $17 million investment in literacy recovery, with a focus on expanding reading specialists for 4th and 5th graders across the state. It also features $7 million for math specialists at schools in need.

What Scott’s Reading

  • Claudine Gay to be Harvard’s 1st Black president, 2nd woman [WTOP]
  • DC students say ‘their truths’ about their biggest concerns in the community [WTOP]
  • Parents voice safety concerns after shooting at Prince George’s Co. school [WTOP]
  • What’s next for Stratford University’s students? Former enrollees, lawmakers seek path forward [InsideNova]
  • D’Sean Perry’s death at U-Va. could have been prevented, parents say [Washington Post]
  • Urgent message from MCPS warns of increased fentanyl overdoses [Bethesda Beat]

Field Trip 

Here’s a fun thought ahead of the weekend.

Winter break: I’m battling a little winter cold, so we’ll be having a very low-key weekend. And with some school systems in our area off next week, School Zone will be taking a winter vacation of its own. Here’s to a happy holiday season and great 2023!

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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