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Proposal would give Georgia paraprofessionals opportunity to become state-certified teachers

Funds could fast-track certificates, STEM teacher shortages

ATLANTA — Many metro Atlanta school districts are holding job fairs this month or actively looking to fill teacher positions, feeling the strain from a statewide teacher shortage.

However, a new proposal could create an influx of new teachers by giving classroom paraprofessionals a path to state certification.

Lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp aim to use the surplus of money in the state treasury to do it.

In an effort to keep teachers in their jobs, the state raised teacher salaries by $2,000 last year. Now, state officials want to pad that with another $2,000 raise for schoolteachers.  

They also want to upgrade many of the thousands of paraprofessionals working in Georgia classrooms to become state-certified teachers.

"These changes will make our classrooms more successful," Kemp told lawmakers via Zoom on Tuesday. 

Kemp’s proposal would give paraprofessionals opportunities to use their classroom experience to get state certification.

"We obviously want fully certified educators in the classroom and many of our paraprofessionals have the knowledge and skill to be able to do that," said Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Georgia Association of Educators

Though paraprofessionals are legally limited in what they can do in classrooms, Morgan said their real-world classroom experience with children, their parents and educators qualify them to at least get a chance to become teachers themselves. 

"Many of our paraprofessionals have 15, 20, 25 years of experience. They have that experience. They have the knowledge, the skills," she said.

Morgan said when they upgrade to becoming schoolteachers, many paraprofessionals in Georgia would double their salaries.     


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