Governor Gianforte Boosts Educator Workforce

Governor's Office
  • September 12 2023

BILLINGS, Mont. – At Lockwood High School, Governor Greg Gianforte today met with educators and administrators benefiting from new laws to strengthen Montana’s educator workforce and help teachers keep more of what they earn.

Teaching our kids is a calling, and teachers ought to earn more for the noble work they do,” Gov Gianforte said. “This spring, we proudly boosted the TEACH Act to increase starting teacher pay, streamlined educator licensing, and invested to lower health care insurance premiums for folks who work in our public schools.”

Lockwood High School

Gov. Gianforte holding a press conference with Rep. Brad Barker (left) and educators at Lockwood High School in Billings

While at Lockwood, the governor visited the classrooms of two teachers benefiting from the TEACH Act and licensure reform, including Zach Carelton, a first-year English teacher.

“I’ve been in hospitality management for the most part of the last ten years and, for the last five, have really been thinking about the jump to education, but financially it wasn’t as justifiable,” Carelton said. “But, with the implementation of the TEACH Act I was able to make the jump into something much more fulfilling and worthwhile.”

Introduced in his first week in office, the TEACH Act, or Tomorrow’s Educators Are Coming Home Act, provides incentives to school districts to increase starting teacher pay. In its first year, the TEACH Act helped nearly 500 teachers begin their careers in Montana. This spring, the governor increased funding for the program by 40 percent.

Taken together with recent reforms to educator licensure, the TEACH Act helped Lockwood High School fill 100% of its 18 vacancies for the 2023 school year.

“Right after I took office in July, we had 18 unfilled positions, and as of tonight at our board meeting, we will have zero,” said Lockwood School District Superintendent Don Christman.

Taking questions

Gov. Gianforte taking questions from students in Mr. Carelton’s English class

To expand Montana’s educator workforce, the governor also championed reforms to make it easier for qualified professionals to teach in Montana, like Terron Torix, a 19-year-old Family and Consumer Science teacher at Lockwood.

Torix obtained his provisional teaching license and is now a first-year teacher at Lockwood, also benefiting from the TEACH Act.

“We’re proudly eliminating barriers to licensure for those who are interested in teaching,” Gov. Gianforte said.

One reform, carried in legislation from Rep. Brad Barker, R-Luther, creates educator licensing reciprocity for military members, military spouses, and veterans.

Speaking at the event, Rep. Barker shared, “We know that we have incredible teacher shortages especially in specialty positions like special education across the state. Those are exacerbated in rural areas. But the things that we did to increase reciprocity and reduce the red tape and the burden to get licensed to teach have proven effective.”

Additionally, to help educators keep more of what they earn, the governor invested $40 million from the state’s surplus to create the School Health Insurance Trust. Targeted toward educators and staff, the trust will help drive down the cost of their health insurance premiums.

Finally, the governor discussed the launch of an undergraduate teacher residency program to recruit teachers in hard-to-fill positions across the state.

Introduced in the legislature by Rep. Barker, the program provides undergraduates with a $6,000 teacher-leader stipend, $4,000 resident tuition, and $3,000 housing supplemental grant expected to support 70 undergraduate teachers annually.

“As we grow that program, we’ll continue to work and find opportunities for schools to bring Montanans in to teach Montana’s kids – especially in those rural areas where there’s such a critical shortage,” Barker said.

Concluding the press conference, the governor said, “I look forward to working together to make our education system even stronger for our students, parents, and teachers.”