Lawmakers debate flexibility in teacher hiring

(UPDATED, 4:02 p.m., with news from Senate Education Committee.)

The House Education Committee kicked off the second week of the legislative session Monday with a long, technical discussion of teacher preparation.

At issue was a rule dealing with alternative paths to teacher certifications in school districts that cannot fill jobs by hiring candidates with traditional academic and professional endorsements. (Click the highlighted link and scroll to page 19 to read the rule).

The rule is intended to grant some flexibility to districts that cannot hire teachers to fill open positions, said Tracie Bent, the Idaho State Board of Education’s chief planning and policy officer.

The rule would authorize districts to seek alternative certifications for one academic year — and alternative authorization can be renewed for two additional years “with evidence of satisfactory progress toward completion of an approved alternative route preparation program.”

Alternative certifications are not new in Idaho. They allow someone to serve as a teacher within a subject area where they possess expertise, even when they have not earned full teacher certification status.

Bent said the most common unfilled positions are in math teachers, special education  and professional-technical fields.

Idaho Education Association public policy director Matt Compton argued that the rule would amount to endorsing “standardless standards” for placing teachers in classrooms.

“If we are reaching for this world-class education and truly want to have the best and brightest teachers in the classroom, then we shouldn’t be broadening the pathways into the classroom,” Compton told lawmakers.

Kerby New
Rep. Ryan Kerby

New Plymouth Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby, a former school superintendent, said the flexibility is needed because “there is an extreme teacher shortage.” Kerby said three local school districts each posted a job for a school counselor, but attracted zero applicants “for weeks.”

The committee approved the rule on a voice vote, with only Boise Democratic Rep. Hy Kloc audibly voting against it.

In other action Monday:

  • House Education quickly rejected three other rules because they contained errors or incorrect dates. Tim Corder, special assistant to Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, said state officials will correct the errors and bring the rules back to the committee.
  • The Senate Education Committee worked its way through three rules Monday afternoon, passing them unanimously. The most complicated rule of the group updates teacher certification standards in more than a dozen disciplines, from government and history to journalism and physical education. The state reviews these standards on a five-year cycle.