Licensure panel faces tough road

MERIDIAN – Members of a committee working to implement task force recommendations got a taste Wednesday of how much work they have ahead of them.

April 30 Tiered Licensure
Members of the Career Ladder and Tiered Licensure Committee meet Wednesday at Meridian Joint School District offices.

The Career Ladder and Tiered Licensure Committee, which is a part of the State Board of Education’s Education Improvement Committees, is working to abolish the current salary schedule and replace it with a career ladder form of teacher pay that is tied to three levels of professional licensure.

Establishing a career ladder system that pays teachers $40,000, $50,000 or $60,000 based on their movement through a system of tiered licensure was a recommendation issued unanimously last summer by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

During Wednesday’s meeting, members wrestled with several different hurdles they must clear before making formal recommendations.

Those hurdles include:

  • Paying for the career ladder, which could cost $250 million over a six-year period.
  • Overcoming resistance to major reforms.
  • Providing a transparent, easy-to-understand system.
  • Differentiating between the loss of a job and the revocation of a license, and ensuring educators’ due process rights are preserved.
  • Identifying the rules and statues that would need to be changed to accommodate the new system.
  • Creating a clear set of guidelines for moving from one professional tier, or license, to the next highest tier.

In addition to those issues, members wrestled with the basic question of how to develop a tiered licensure system that ensures classroom teachers are highly effective while not serving as a deterrent to recruiting teachers.

“When you first start out in the profession… you are not nearly as good as you are three or four years down the road,” Madison Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas said. “We don’t want to be too quick to label someone a failing teacher and yank their license away. Often times what is needed is a little more experience.”

Committee members didn’t take action to address any of the obstacles faced. Instead, they discussed what questions need to be answered and how they will plan future meetings.

In addition to the committee that met Wednesday, at least two other Idaho groups are working on licensure and the career ladder system (the Tiered Licensure Technical Advisory Committee and the Network for Transforming Education Preparation grant steering committee).

The technical advisory committee will issue recommendations only, while the group that met Wednesday is expected to present formal proposals to the State Board of Education for approval.

At one point, Meridian Joint School District Superintendent Linda Clark expressed concern that the groups looking at tiered licensure haven’t been productive enough to make recommendations to the state board by August.

“I am very worried about time,” Clark said. “…This committee meeting every three to four weeks won’t get the job done.”

The committee includes 17 full members and two non-voting members. About a dozen attended in person, two sent surrogates in their place and several others participated by phone Wednesday. The group’s next meetings are scheduled for May 13 and May 27.

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