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Sweeping Changes Made To Teacher Licensing Bill

Jeanie Lindsay/IPB


Lawmakers are looking for ways to address the state teacher shortage, and a House committee amended a bill Tuesday, to allow more people to work before they pass their licensing exam.


Some teachers say the initial teacher licensing test contributes to the state's teacher shortage, and SB 387 aims to address that. Originally, the bill waived content licensing exams for teachers as long as they maintained high grades in their teacher prep coursework, and tried to pass the test at least twice, among other requirements.


But a change in the House Education Committee stripped that language from the bill, and it now says schools could hire up to 10 percent of unlicensed teachers while they work on earning a license. Committee Chair Bob Behning says administrators can decide if they want to take advantage of that or not, but they're on a time limit; lawmakers set that piece of the bill to expire in 2021.


"We're just letting principals or superintendents make the decision - they will have to be licensed at the end of that period of time," Behning says.


Another part of the bill says schools can offer supplemental pay for some teachers, like elementary school teachers with a master's degree in math, reading, or literacy; special education professionals; and STEM teachers.


But John O'Neill from the Indiana State Teachers Association says the state should take a more comprehensive look at increasing pay for all teachers, especially with recent conversations around how much teachers are responsible for in terms of student learning and safety.


"It feels like these supplements and stipends we hear about each year in one form or another amounts to, what we're essentially paying teachers in tips now," O'Neill says.


The bill also now says schools can bargain with teacher unions to offer larger pay raises to some teachers, and, requires that potential teachers with a "content specialist license" must meet requirements around pedagogy, or the way students learn.


Teacher licensing exams also received some attention in the current version of the bill. It would require the State Department of Education to investigate and create a report on teacher licensing exams in Indiana and how often they're used – and passed by future teachers – in other states before Sept. 1.


The committee approved the bill. The full chamber will vote on it before a final deadline next week.