Legislature Set to Add New Teacher Certification Pathways | United States government and politics

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona legislature may soon approve changes to the teacher certification process designed to address a shortage of classroom instructors by allowing more people without regular teacher training to lead a class.

The Republican-backed proposal has already passed the Senate and received initial approval after vigorous debate in the House on Monday over objections from Democrats, who said it would allow unqualified people to teach.

The proposal would extend a 2017 law that allows people with private sector experience to obtain a “subject certificate” to teach grades 6 to 12.

The change removes level restrictions, allowing someone with outside experience and a college degree to also teach K-5.

Arizona, like many other states, is experiencing an ongoing teacher shortage, and supporters say the proposal is one more tool to address that problem.

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“This is not about watering down the standards to become a teacher and receive a certificate,” Mesa Rep. Michelle Udall said. “These are additional avenues for bringing people who are passionate about the subjects they teach into the teaching profession.

Democrats point to low teacher pay, large class sizes, micromanagement by the legislature and politicization of the school curriculum to drive qualified teachers out of the profession. Arizona has one of the lowest teacher salaries in the nation despite big increases in recent years and this year the GOP-controlled legislature is proposing policies to increase the review of school library books and strengthen the rights of parents to review materials used by teachers.

Democratic Representative Reginald Bolding, the Minority Leader, said creating more “flexibility” for aspiring mid-career professionals to enter the classroom to address teacher shortages will not help.

Democratic Representative Kelli Butler agreed, noting that there are 180,000 qualified and certified teachers in the state who are not in the classroom due to low salaries, class sizes that are the largest in the country and other problems. Adding unqualified teachers will make the problem worse, she said.

“The solution is not to lower the standards,” Butler said. “The solution is to do what is necessary, using the money we have to ensure that our teachers are qualified teachers and teach in the classroom.”

Governor Doug Ducey pushed special certification for upper grade teachers in 2017, saying it would add to the pool of people who can teach. But the proposal did little to address the teacher shortage.

The bill also adds new teacher training programs. It is awaiting a formal House vote before returning to the Senate on minor changes. It passed the Senate without the support of minority Democrats.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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