State OKs rules to license teachers without education degrees

The State Board of Education approved new rules Wednesday for teacher licensing that make it easier for college graduates without education degrees to get jobs in Indiana classrooms.

The board voted 7-3 to approve the new standards, which reduce requirements for "career specialist" permits for such applicants.

Supporters of the new rules say they will make it easier to attract people with expertise in areas such as math and science to classrooms. But teachers unions and others say that the new rules will reduce the quality of education.

Everyone who testified on the issue Wednesday spoke against the changes, which take effect immediately.

John Jacobson, dean of the Ball State Teachers College, argued that similar efforts to lower standards in other states, including Texas, did not successfully attract more teachers.

"It did not result in any more qualified candidates," Jacobson said.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett began the push for an overhaul in 2009 in part as a way to bring in alternative teaching groups such as Teach for America.

Wednesday's vote came as a group of Democratic activists ended a separate roughly year-long legal battle against the Republican-appointed board members.

Lawyer Bill Groth announced that the board had agreed to pay $15,000 in legal fees as part of a settlement approved Wednesday. The board members also agreed not to violate the state's open meetings law in the future.

Plaintiffs alleged the board violated Indiana's open meetings law last year when members sought to move the calculation of the "A-F" school grades to the General Assembly in the wake of last year's grade-changing scandal. Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz originally filed the lawsuit against the other board members, but the attorney general successfully argued she did not have standing to bring a suit against other state officials without his approval.

The lawsuit is one of many skirmishes that led U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to decry Indiana's "deep, deep dysfunction" among education leaders.

"It's unfortunate that a frivolous lawsuit like this one wasted so much time and energy that would have been better spent focusing on the needs of Indiana's students," Democratic board member Gordon Hendry said in a statement.

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