Kansas teacher license changes take effect

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Several dozen people have shown interest in new state teaching license regulations that took effect Tuesday allowing some people to teach without having education degrees, Kansas officials said, but few people have qualified thus far under the new rules.

The intent of the changes, which went into force with the start of the state’s new fiscal year, is to make it easier for people with professional experience to fill critical teaching vacancies in science, math, technology and engineering.

Scott Myers, director of the teacher licensure and accreditation for the Kansas Department of Education, said about 100 people had inquired about the new requirements, though only two met the criteria.

“I think (hiring) will be surgical,” Myers said. “It will be driven by the clientele and the needs of the district to prepare the students.”

The regulations would allow applicants without education degrees to receive Kansas teaching licenses if they have at least a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of related work experience in the designated subjects. An industry-recognized certificate in a technical profession also would qualify.

The Kansas National Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, contends loosening the requirements will weaken the teaching profession and hurt the quality of education.

KNEA spokesman Marcus Baltzell said the organization’s members recognize the need to fill teacher shortages in rural areas and would like to be part of the solutions “that make sense for students.”

“Opening classrooms to unlicensed and untrained individuals neglects and ignores aspects of the profession,” he said.

Concordia superintendent Bev Mortimer said the district was discussing hiring a chef to teach culinary arts under the supervision of a licensed teacher to provide mentoring. Another possibility is using a component of the law to bring a community college professor in to teach physics instead of sending students to the college campus.

“We will likely start very slow with this, but I do see us taking advantage of the changes, especially in the career and technical education,” she said.

Mortimer said she has told district teachers that the priority will be to fill any vacancies with qualified licensed teachers first and use applicants under the new law for only “one or two classes.”

 

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