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Bill aimed at teacher shortages still alive in legislature

March 7, 2018

A bill that would allow Indiana public schools to fill up to 10 percent of their teaching staffs with unlicensed teachers faces an uncertain future in the legislature.

The bill passed the Senate on a 35-12 vote and cleared the House 66-29. It was modified since it passed the Senate. The changes will be discussed during conference committee in the next week.

The measure, added to Senate Bill 387 during a Senate Education Committee meeting, would ostensibly allow public schools to be more competitive with charter schools at a time when many districts are having difficulty finding qualified teachers, particularly in areas like special education, science and math. Charter schools tend to have fewer regulations for hiring than traditional districts, and are currently only required to have 90 percent of teachers hold licenses.

Some lawmakers questioned the hiring unlicensed teachers and said the bill is a temporary solution to larger problems.

"We don't have enough qualified teachers and we don't want to pay to have enough qualified teachers, so we create a teacher facsimile," said Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis. "This is a very big problem and we're not addressing it."

The bill comes as Indiana legislators face a March 14 adjournment deadline for this year's session.

The decision to hire unlicensed teachers would still be left up to superintendents and local school boards, The Indianapolis Star reported. The bill wouldn't require districts to hire unlicensed teachers, but does give them the option.

"It mirrors what we allow for charter schools," said Risa Regnier, director of educator licensing for the Indiana Department of Education. "Charter schools already have that flexibility."

The bill also targets hard-to-staff positions by allowing teachers specializing in special education, science, technology, engineering or math to receive additional pay.

Republican Rep. Bob Behning said there are many students who graduate with high grade point averages, but can't pass the content area exams. He said the bill "is trying to deal with that in several ways."

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