Jones, Ybarra urge caution on tiered licensure

Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra both urge a cautious approach to a teacher licensing proposal that has drawn fire from the state’s teachers union.

Jana Jones Headshot 2
Jana Jones

Jones, a Democrat, and Ybarra, a Republican, both labeled the issue “complex” and called for a slow, deliberate process to consider the proposal and public reaction.

In August, the State Board of Education gave preliminary approval to the new system of certification and licensure. The proposed rule, available to review online, essentially creates two tiers of teacher certification – as well as other subgroups including professional, master and contingent designations.

A teacher’s ability to obtain and renew certification would hinge on several factors, including teacher evaluations performed locally; student growth; and the teacher’s ability to meet performance standards.

Since May, the Idaho Education Association has opposed tying teacher licenses to local evaluations.

Ybarra and Jones took slightly different stances on the proposal.

In a prepared statement, Ybarra called tiered licensure “a step in the right direction,” but added “what we must also include is offering teachers excellent working conditions, competitive salaries and many opportunities for professional growth.”

Sherri Ybarra square
Sherri Ybarra

Wrote Ybarra, “This issue is complex and we should slow down and be sure we get it right the first time, ensuring Idaho’s final message to future teachers will be:  ‘Join Idaho’s vibrant team of professional educators.’”

Meanwhile, Jones suggested a State Board subcommittee may have moved too quickly in hopes of advancing a plan before the Legislature convenes.

While Jones is not opposed to evaluations – she said they are critical to help teachers learn and grow professionally – she said it is highly unusual to link a license with a local evaluation.

“Where you share that kind of employer-employee information at the state level for licensure becomes really touchy, and those details have not been clearly worked out,” Jones said. “What would be reported, what wouldn’t and how would it be reported? My fear is we will lose the meaningfulness of what we are trying to accomplish.”

On the campaign trail, Jones said teachers, administrators, school board members and parents have voiced concerns about the proposal.

“Take a hard look at how feedback is coming in, and if we don’t have strong consensus from the majority of people that these board rules are OK and we should move forward, then I think we should table them and keep working on them,” Jones said.

The issue flared up this month when Richard Westerberg, a State Board member and the chairman of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education, sent a letter to teachers about the proposal.

IEA members objected, saying the letter was inappropriate and “one-sided.”

Plans call for tying the licensure system to a career ladder that could raise teachers’ salaries to $40,000 to $58,000, depending on level of certification.

The current minimum teacher salary set by law is $31,750, while the career ladder proposal has yet to be finalized.

Next month, the State Board will conduct three public hearings to gather feedback on the tiered certification plans. The meetings are set for:

  • 7 p.m. Oct. 7, Pocatello: Idaho State University Student Union, Salmon River Room.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Lewiston: Lewis-Clark State College, Meriwether Lewis Hall, Room 100.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 21, Nampa, College of Western Idaho, Micron Center for PTE, Classrooms 1701 A/B.

  • 7 p.m. Oct. 7, Pocatello: Idaho State University Student Union, Salmon River Room.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 14, Lewiston: Lewis-Clark State College, Meriwether Lewis Hall, Room 100.
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 21, Nampa, College of Western Idaho, Micron Center for PTE, Classrooms 1701 A/B.