SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Public school teachers are pushing back against a state school board plan intended to address teacher shortages.
The Utah State Board of Education unanimously decided to allow schools to hire people with expertise in subject matter but no teaching license or classroom experience.
Many spoke against the plan at an overflowing board meeting last week. Their concerns included a lack of preparedness and burdening other educators, among others.
“Instead of a fixing a leak in the dam, it’s going to be plugging the hole with a stick of dynamite,” said Roger Donohoe, a Hyde Park teacher who won a Huntsman Award for Excellence in Education in 2014.
The Academic Pathway to Teaching rule requires applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree and show they mastered their intended course subject. They would be mentored by a veteran educator.
Board members will hear a report on the public’s feedback before meeting in August. The rule will go into effect if the board takes no action.
“There were a lot of comments directly related to the rule and probably even more that were probably beyond that, pointing to problems maybe in the teaching profession,” Chairman David Crandall said. “We appreciate all the comments that were made. We do listen.”
Lincoln Elementary School science teacher Cara Baldree said the rule is “absolutely demoralizing and insulting.”
“Just because you comprehend third-grade math doesn’t mean you can teach third-grade math,” she said.
Supporters say the program offers schools a bigger talent pool. “The rule allows Utah to tap into an important pool of talent and ability,” Sutherland Institute policy analyst Christine Cooke said.
Daniel Baker is a director at the private company American Preparatory Schools, which operates American Preparatory Academy charters. “I don’t like throwing out this whole rule because some people can’t apply it effectively,” he said, noting that mentorship programs should be incentivized or allow for more flexible schedules.
Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews said there are negative consequences when teachers are tasked with helping those who would be included in the program. “What other profession does this?” she said. “We don’t let someone work on our car, clean our teeth, unclog our drain — we don’t even let people cut our hair if they don’t have a license that means something.”
No school is required to participate.
“Our directors, our principals, those who run our local (schools), you have the responsibility, knowing what’s happening in your classrooms, to verify that this person is prepared to teach in your classroom. If not, don’t hire them,” said Royce Van Tassell, executive director of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools.