Flawed tiered certification rule needs an overhaul

Idaho teachers, students and parents should be very concerned about the proposed rule on tiered certification currently being considered by the Idaho State Board of Education. It is an issue that could have a detrimental effect on our ability to recruit and retain quality teachers, and is yet another attempt on the part of policymakers to discredit the experience, insight and professionalism of Idaho’s teachers.

The current tiered certification rule unfairly and unnecessarily links a teacher’s certification (license) to an evaluation done by a local administrator. Certification should be the responsibility of the state — signing off on the training and credentials of a potential teacher and allowing them to pursue employment. Local districts have the authority to make employment decisions — hiring, evaluating, promoting, etc. For other professionals such as physicians, lawyers and various skilled tradesmen, there is a clear delineation between licensing and employment, with third parties handling the licensing aspect, while employment is the purview of individual businesses. Combining or confusing these very distinct areas of responsibility is not the appropriate direction for any profession, and especially not for Idaho’s public education system.

If this rule becomes law, it would set Idaho on a very slippery slope as we seek to recruit and retain teachers. We have already lost many teachers to surrounding states where they can find better pay and a less toxic public education environment. This proposed rule is the product of our unwieldy bureaucracy; drafted by a committee top heavy with policymakers and including only one active teacher. Our classroom teachers have experience in the school rooms of our education system, but they have again been denied a significant voice in decisions that impact their students and their profession.

The committee has also recommended a direct tie between tiered certification and a proposed career ladders formula. While the Idaho Education Assocation has always advocated for professional pay for educators and we are certainly appreciative of any effort to improve compensation, this proposal seems to be a “shiny object”, designed to entice teachers into accepting a flawed tiered certification rule in exchange for a potentially empty promise of better pay. Neither the committee nor the State Board has funding authority. That power rests with the Legislature, which has a long history of unfunded mandates. Even Superintendent Tom Luna recognizes this disconnect, saying in a recent committee meeting, “There is no rubber stamp in the Legislature.”

Idaho voters resoundingly rejected Luna’s approach by defeating Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in 2012. Yet, here is another circuitous attempt to bring those same ill-conceived policies into our education system. The proposed tiered certification rule attempts to make an end run around the will of the people and the expertise and recommendations of those who know public education best.

The IEA is a strong supporter of evaluations and accountability. When structured properly, evaluations help ensure that teachers continue to grow and excel, and that optimal student outcomes are achieved. However, the tiered certification rule currently under consideration is punitive. Instead of using an evaluation as a measure of support, it becomes a tool intended to penalize the teacher.

The currently proposed tiered certification rule would have negative consequences for public education in Idaho, and we encourage Idaho citizens to join us in urging the State Board of Education to revisit this policy. Email comments can be sent to [email protected]. There are three public hearings scheduled on this issue as well — Oct. 7 in Pocatello, Oct. 14 in Lewiston, and Oct. 21 in Nampa.

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Penni Cyr is the president of the Idaho Education Association.