Lawmaker kills proposal to let schools hire unlicensed teachers

Less than a week after introducing the idea, an Indiana senator killed a proposal Tuesday that would have allowed school districts to hire up to 10 percent of their teachers without a traditional state teaching licenses.

Sen. Andy Zay, a Republican from Huntington, said the proposal became “problematic” for other lawmakers and advocates.

“The important thing for me wasn’t to create new licensure or that kind of thing, but to create pockets and opportunities to broaden the options for local corporations to hire teachers,” Zay said. “You don’t want to fill a school full of unlicensed teachers.”

While some school choice advocates and Republicans supported giving districts the same flexibility as charter schools, which have fewer restrictions on hiring, teachers unions pushed back against putting unlicensed teachers in more classrooms. Under the proposal, districts would have been able to hire teachers who hold alternative licenses that require little more than bachelor's degrees, like the license allowed for charter schools, or no licenses at all.

“Teaching is not as easy as some people think it is,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, the Democrat minority leader from Anderson. “We need to be careful about who we allow to actually become teachers. Training is important.”

This isn’t the first time Indiana Republicans have taken steps to loosen teacher licensure. Rules for various state permits and licenses have been overhauled in recent years to reduce certain requirements, moves that have not been well received by state teachers unions.

Zay said he pulled back the unlicensed teacher proposal to allow the rest of Senate Bill 387 to move forward, which he thinks can help Indiana address teaching shortages.

The bill would still allow districts to hire up to 10 percent of teachers who have not passed content area exams. The exams have been criticized recently for being too difficult and keeping potentially qualified teachers out of the classroom. Those teachers would be required complete student teaching and have at least a 3.0 grade point average, as well as work with a veteran teacher mentor.

The bill also satisfies another Republican priority in recent years to boost teacher pay for those who take jobs in high-demand subjects. It would allow districts to pay teachers more if they teach special education, science, technology, engineering or math.

The Senate passed the bill 35-12 on Tuesday. It heads to the House.

Chalkbeat is a not-for-profit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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