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Idaho House Committee Approves New Plan To Find Non-Teachers For The Classroom

Courtesy of Post Falls School District

With a teacher shortage in Idaho, state legislators are looking for ways to find enough qualified bodies to fill classrooms.

One central Idaho legislator has proposed allowing local school districts to create their own teacher selection guidelines. A House committee approved the idea Friday morning, even though the plan was heavily criticized by teachers during a hearing.Rep. Charlie Shepherd [R-Riggins] says small towns often have a hard time drawing teaching candidates. So they have to think a little differently. Here’s his plan.

“A school district or charter may develop criteria for a teaching certificate available only to a teacher teaching in that school district or charter school," Shepherd said.

A few of the highlights: candidates must have bachelor’s degrees in some field. Those who are hired could only climb so far on the state’s teacher salary ladder unless they go back to school and complete the same academic work as regular certified teachers.

Blake Youde from the Idaho Charter School Network acknowledged it’s not an ideal solution. But, when districts and small schools are desperate for teachers, it’s a way to reach out to retirees and people with experience in other fields who might be interested in teaching.

"When the answer is, we need you to go through a certification process and they say, 'I’m 60 years old and I’ve got some gas in the tank and want to do this but I have two degrees. It’s just not something I can do right now,'' he said.

But most of the testimony, much of it from educators, criticized the idea.

“The bill assumes that anyone with a bachelor’s degree is somehow qualified to teach children of all ages without any training in classroom management, building curriculums, effective discipline methods, adjustment of teaching methods based on the needs of the student or child development," said Chris Stokes from Eagle, Idaho.

Others argue this devalues teachers who are trained in those areas and sends a message that anyone can do what they do.

After the hearing, Layne McInelly, the head of the Idaho Education Association, issued a statement opposing the bill. "A highly qualified teacher is the single most important factor in student success. Lowering the bar—again—makes the dynamic haphazard and threatens student achievement. Idaho students, parents, and professional educators deserve better.”

Nevertheless, the bill passed out of committee and now heads to the Idaho state House.