Press Release

AFT President Randi Weingarten Announces Six-Figure Investment in Newark Public Schools Teacher Education Academy

For Release:


Alexis Lopez

NEWARK, N.J.—Today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced spring and summer stipends to support Newark Public Schools Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy where students can enter a dual-enrollment program with Montclair State University. This high school experience with a high-quality teacher preparation program helps create a pipeline to educate, train, prepare and retain future teachers, and to diversify the teacher workforce. These stipends will provide up to $125,000 for students in the program during the 2022 spring and summer terms:

“The students of today are the teachers of tomorrow, and there’s a deep yearning among so many high schoolers to serve and give back to the communities where they live,” said Weingarten. “We also know many students need extra support to make this dream possible; without such help, the pressure to work after-school and summer jobs can become intense. It’s why we’re seeding these grants to set them on a path to success.”

Students enrolled in Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy will receive stipends for both the spring and summer semesters—$1,200 during the spring term and $2,500 for the summer term.

The initiative began in 2019, when the Red Hawks Rising Teacher Academy was developed as a “grow your own” model at East Side High School and University High School by the Newark Board of Education in partnership with Montclair State University, the Newark Teachers Union and the American Federation of Teachers. It was designed to spark the interest of high school students to explore teaching as a profession, to learn about educational justice issues in their community, and to enroll in college courses while in high school with the explicit goal of recruiting them into a teacher education program and supporting them to return to their community to educate the next generation.

“We are confronting a teacher shortage—both in recruiting and retaining educators—which is why Newark has committed to this ‘grow your own’ program,” said Weingarten. “Now more than ever, educators and future educators need resources and support, and we're confident that AFT's stipend will help maintain this critical partnership that exemplifies how dual-enrollment pathway programs are worthy of long-term funding and policy advocacy, and will strengthen urban education and the teaching profession. These funds will aid students in preparing for careers in teaching at a time when educators are desperately needed and to give back to the very community that raised them.”

In December 2021, the AFT launched the Teacher and School Staff Shortage Task Force to examine causes and propose solutions for districts experiencing extreme shortages leading to immense pressure on educators and families that could disrupt recovery from the pandemic. One solution is having a teaching force that truly reflects the country's growing diversity, and how it extends throughout the school community. The significant cultural and linguistic mismatches have led to high suspension, expulsion and dropout rates as well as evidence of low academic expectations. Diversity in the teaching ranks can help all children: Many will see themselves reflected by their teachers; others will be exposed in an affirming way to people who are different, thus helping reduce negative stereotypes and unconscious implicit biases.

“The situation is urgent: Teacher shortages have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators are stressed; they’re facing daily changes—including book bans, low wages and poor working conditions—that sap their will and self-esteem. We can’t just talk the talk, we have to walk the walk to build and maintain a pipeline of high-quality educators,” Weingarten added.

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.