Experienced professionals may soon have another pathway to become teachers in Indiana, under a bill lawmakers say is designed to help combat the teacher shortage.
Senate Bill 205 allows people 26 and older with a bachelor's degree to get a teaching license after they finish an alternative training program and pass a state licensing exam. The bill is written to specifically allow an online program called American Board to operate in Indiana.
The American Board program operates in several other states, and supporters of the bill point out it includes data reporting for the state to evaluate the program's usefulness and quality.
During debate on the legislation, Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) highlighted that school administrators have the final say on who they hire, and that the bill includes several requirements for potential teachers completing the program.
"I think we've built in some safeguards and guardrails that makes them jump enough competency hoops," he said.
The bill also restricts teachers licensed through the program from teaching special education.
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But opponents, including Vigo County teacher and Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute), said new teachers need experience in the classroom before being put in front of students.
The bill requires a year of clinical training, but only after teachers licensed through the program are hired full time.
"Students need trained teachers, not someone who has no experience at all, coming in to educate them," she said. "The way to get more people into the teaching profession is to raise their pay, respect their profession, and include them in conversations that affect their working conditions – not offer an online license."
Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) also takes issue with the legislation, and said it devalues the profession of teaching while undermining the standards required for traditional teacher training programs. He said he's disturbed by the legislation.
"This bill proposes that, rather than paying our teachers more, the solution to this problem is to lower our standards," Smith said in a statement.
The House sent the bill back to the Senate for final approval Tuesday.