WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – There aren’t enough teachers to fill America’s classrooms — and the Biden administration wants to help fix the problem.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited schools in Tennessee and North Carolina on Monday to talk about the teacher shortage and how to fix it. They highlighted federal efforts to launch apprenticeship programs and push for higher teacher pay.

“Recruit. Respect. Retain,” Dr. Biden said “If we want educators to be able to do what they do best, we have to give them the support that they deserve.”

Teachers union advocates welcome those steps at the federal level. Mary Kusler with the National Education Association says local leaders need to do more too.

“The majority of these decisions are being made at the local level. So we need to see communities who are stepping up and standing by their educators,” Kusler said.

She says that means efforts to improve work environments for teachers and bump up their pay.

“We keep expecting more and more from our educators and not necessarily giving them a living wage to even live in the communities that they teach,” Kusler said.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten agrees. She adds investing in teachers now is critical for education’s long-term future.

“To send a message to young people that we want you in the profession. That you’re going to be valued,” Weingarten said.

Both advocates say leaders need to show more respect for teachers.

“We need help from politicians, not smearing and jeering,” Weingarten said.