Senate Ed hears push for tiered licensure

The Senate Education Committee hasn’t yet taken up the controversial tiered teacher licensure plan — at least not officially.

Linda Clark Nov 20
Linda Clark

But on Thursday afternoon, the committee heard a push for the plan, from two of its key architects: West Ada School District Superintendent Linda Clark, and State Board of Education member Rod Lewis. In a lengthy presentation, both urged the committee to approve the tiered licensure plan, and launch a related career ladder plan to boost teacher pay.

“I do think that this is the right time,” said Lewis, a State Board member for nearly 15 years. “I have never seen a better opportunity than this.”

Clark and Lewis co-chaired a State Board committee that fleshed out the tiered licensure and career ladder plans — two of the 20 recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force.

Rod Lewis, seen at right

The tiered licensure plan may be the most controversial piece of the task force puzzle; even in rewritten form, the Idaho Education Association still harbors concerns with the plan. The career ladder is the costliest of the task force recommendations, carrying a $175 million price tag over five years, and now contains many accountability measures that were stripped out of the tiered licensure plan. New state superintendent Sherri Ybarra says she would prefer to pilot the career ladder in a handful of districts, rather than rolling it out in one year.

Clark fielded a pointed question from Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking — a Boise Democrat who served on the State Board’s career ladder subcommittee, but abstained from voting for or against the plan. She asked Clark if she was concerned about ramping up the state’s licensing requirements when it’s not clear whether the state will provide the money to increase teacher pay.

Janie Ward-Engelking
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking

“I am not concerned,” Clark said. “I believe we’ve got to move this together.”

Clark said many key pieces are in place already. Colleges of education are ramping up on preparing graduates for the new licensing guidelines, and many districts have established mentoring programs, using their share of the $15.8 million in teacher leadership premiums provided by the 2014 Legislature.

The tiered licensure plan will come to Senate Education in the form of a rule, which need pass only one legislative education committee to go into effect. Career ladder will take the form of a bill, also likely to head to Senate Education at some point.

When this occurs, Senate Education members will likely hear from some folks who were in the audience Thursday but not on the meeting agenda. Several IEA officials were in attendance, as was Ybarra.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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