AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas should further invest in programs to grow the state’s teaching workforce, some legislators say. 

House Bill 3893, authored by Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, D-Dallas, and Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, along with Senate Bill 2425 by Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, would expand a program for some teacher aides to include high school students. They would be exempted from their college tuition while they work towards earning a teaching degree. 

Sen. Menendez said this could be one solution to addressing the shortage of teachers in various parts of the state. 

“Anything we can do to encourage someone to come back to the teaching profession, through helping them offset the cost of education through their loans, anything we can do, will not only help cure the shortage, but also the diversity cannot be understated,” Menendez said during a press conference. “The diversity of people in the classroom so that they can be role models, so that we can have more women teaching math and science.” 

For high school students to qualify, they would have to be enrolled at a public high school in dual credit courses offered through the college or university granting the exemption, be a member of a future teacher association and demonstrate a financial need. They would also have to take courses in one or more subject areas with teacher shortages, such as bilingual education, math or science. 

“This is an investment in our future and it’s a way to help diversity and give young people an opportunity to have not only a career they can raise their family on, but one they can be proud of,” Menendez said. 

Similar “Grow Your Own Educator” programs have popped up nationwide. 

“What is known from the research is that when you invest in and grow your own educators and you create pathways into the teaching profession, that reduces the retention costs the districts have to pay for,” said Dr. Angela Valenzuela, director of the Texas Center for Education Policy.