Legislative roundup, 2.26.21: Local alternative teaching certificate bill advances

After a lengthy and divisive debate Friday the House Education Committee advanced a bill to allow school districts and charters to create their own criteria for new local nontraditional teaching certificates.

Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock

Sponsoring freshman Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, said House Bill 221 is designed to broaden the pool of teacher applicants, by allowing local schools to issue non-transferrable local teaching certificates.

“The whole idea of this bill is to fill a teachers gap,” Shepherd said. “This is just another tool to open up opportunity for them.”

But during public testimony over the bill several education groups, educators and parents expressed concern that the bill would land lower quality teachers in classrooms, and possibly violate the Idaho Constitution’s requirement to maintain “a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

Norma Lloyd, a former chair of the Idaho Professional Standards Commission who was speaking for the American Association of University Women, said the bill is a “woefully inadequate” attempt to address the teacher shortage.

“Let’s not lower our education standards in this state any more,” Lloyd said. “Teachers prepare the young people for tomorrow, and with all the problems we are facing today we need the best education possible.”

The Idaho Association of School Administrators and a charter school lobbyist backed the bill, saying that, although it may be imperfect, the bill would offer a new tool to help schools fill teaching positions.

Under the bill the minimum criteria for a local teaching certificate would be being at least 18 years of age and holding a bachelor’s degree or qualified industry experience.

After Friday’s vote, Idaho Education Association President Layne McInelly issued a statement calling the bill a “Band-Aid” approach to the state’s teacher shortage.

“To put someone in charge of an Idaho classroom just because they are over the age of 18 and have a bachelor’s degree is a huge disservice to students and disrespectful to our well-trained, highly qualified professional educators,” he said.

House Bill 221 heads next to the House floor with a recommendation it passes.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News covered Friday’s hearing remotely.

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