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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – From allowing retired teachers to return to the classroom without losing their benefits to increasing the number of minority teachers – lawmakers are working to provide a solution to the teacher shortage in Tennessee.

Senator Ken Yager, Senate GOP Caucus Chair, is hoping a bill he has introduced will work to increase the number of substitutes available for school districts. “We’re suffering a real shortage and our classroom teachers, substitute teachers, school bus drivers, the personnel that are key in providing an uninterrupted educational opportunity for our children whether it be in my rural district or right here in Davidson County.”

Due to staff shortages, the bill allows retired substitutes to work and still get full benefits.

“Current law allows our retirees to come back, but they’re capped at 120 days. My bill will remove that cap and allow our teachers to come back to teach for an unlimited amount of time, although the bill does say it will be reviewed annually,” Yager said.

A bill by Representative Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville), targets improving the number of minority teachers in the state. “It’s a tough time to be a teacher and we have to incentivize it, it’s a noble profession. It’s a profession that’s needed and rewarding so I really believe people want to teach,” McKenzie said.

HB2602 would revise the amount of money in the minority teaching fellowship award.

For those enrolled in a teaching licensure program in a four-year public college, tuition and fees would be covered. For those on a teacher licensing track at a private institution of higher learning, recipients could receive $5000 to help with education expenses up to three times.

“I definitely think it’s going to raise the number of teachers overall, they’re actually benchmarking how the universities are doing as far as recruiting and retaining minority teachers and a lot of our colleges and universities aren’t doing as well as we would like. So just to raise the overall number is good, but also to diversify that pool, I think, is even more important,” McKenzie said.

Both proposed bills are going through the committee process.

There are over 2,000 open teacher vacancies in the state of Tennessee.