September 23, 2021

Indiana Lawmakers Weigh Local Teacher Permits To Address Ongoing Shortages

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The education study committee looked at several topics this year, including how to reduce or streamline various education policies, and publicize data and strategies to help close achievement or opportunity gaps in schools. - (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

The education study committee looked at several topics this year, including how to reduce or streamline various education policies, and publicize data and strategies to help close achievement or opportunity gaps in schools.

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Some Indiana lawmakers are weighing whether schools should have the option to locally license or permit new teachers. It was a main point of conversation during the General Assembly's final education study committee meeting Tuesday. 

The committee's final report recommends the state explore ways to set teacher pay goals and expand pre-K opportunities, and publish more resources to close education achievement or opportunity gaps, among other things. 

In the face of teacher shortages, some lawmakers on the committee also expressed interest in granting schools the authority to locally license or provide permits for new educators.

READ MORE: As Schools Offer COVID-19 Bonuses, Long-Term Teacher Pay Needs Remain In Focus

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But John O'Neal from the Indiana State Teachers Association said the union prefers that the Indiana Department of Education oversee licensure, because granting schools that authority may affect the quality of teachers working with students.

"If we start having every district doing their own licensure process, it could add to the inequality of credentials and experience across districts," he said. 

Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) said during the meeting he supports efforts to maintain quality licensure, but doesn't want to make local teaching permits seem like a "bad thing" — especially if it means allowing local experts to share a specific skillset.

"There are people we need to take advantage of in our local communities at times," he said.

Others in the meeting said local licenses or permits could be used as a way to help schools quickly fill positions in specific content areas, like chemistry or music.

O'Neal pushed back on that notion, pointing to the state's numerous pathways for people to become teachers. He also said shortages are likely due to a myriad of other factors — not how quickly a person can obtain a teaching license. 

"I don't want to get into this debate now, but I think there are other reasons that are causing the shortage, like pay and benefits, and than other things like working conditions," O'Neal said. 

Ultimately, the committee's final report suggested that IDOE weigh in on teacher licensing before the next legislative session. The committee's recommendations now go to legislative leaders for consideration ahead of the 2022 legislative session that starts in January.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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