Confusion over charter school teacher licensing

A disagreement over licensing requirements for teachers in Indiana charter schools is coming to a head with legislation making its way through the General Assembly. It centers on how to interpret language in state law. Depending on how you read the law, it either requires most charter-school teachers to have a standard teaching license — or it doesn’t.

The Indiana Department of Education, which administers teacher licensing requirements, has interpreted the law to say that 90 percent of teachers in a charter school must have a regular teaching license, the kind that would let them teach in a neighborhood public school. The Indiana State Teachers Association agrees; it says licensing requirements should apply to state-funded charter schools just as they apply to public schools.

“We believe the professionals going into the classroom need to be properly trained, not only in content areas but also in pedagogy,” said ISTA Vice President Keith Gambill. “You don’t learn classroom management in a calculus course.”

But some advocates for charter schools, including the Indiana Charter School Board, say the flexibility allowed to charter schools should include more leeway in hiring teachers.

James Betley, executive director of the board, believes the education department has misinterpreted the licensing law. As he reads it, the law says at least 90 percent of charter school’s teachers must have a license – but it can be any kind of Indiana teaching license, including a less onerous “charter license” described in a different section of state law.

“Otherwise, what’s the point of having a charter license?” he said.

It’s no wonder people disagree, because the lawis not only confusing — it seems to contradict itself. Read it and see for yourself: It’s Indiana Code 20-24-6-5.

Section 5(a) says at least 90 percent of teachers in a charter school must “hold a license to teach in a public school in Indiana” or be getting a license through the state’s transition to teaching program.

As for what it means to “hold a license,” it cites the section of state code that governs all teacher licensing. The section includes a provision that a person may earn a license to teach in a charter school by either 1) graduating from college with at least a B average in the content area that he or she will teach or 2) graduating from college and passing a teaching exam.

That suggests 90 percent of a charter school’s teachers could hold the “charter license,” right?

Section 5(b) of the law says a person who isn’t licensed may qualify to teach in a charter school by 1) graduating from college with at least a B average in the content area that he or she will teach or 2) graduating from college and passing a teaching exam. The same requirements as the charter license.

Except that Section 5(b) says teachers who qualify by that alternative route can make up no more than 10 percent of teachers in a charter school.

It’s true that, beyond having a college degree, you need to jump through some hoops to get an actual charter license. But from what I can tell, the only additional requirements are providing proof that you’re certified for CPR, AED and the Heimlich maneuver and have training in suicide prevention.

So people who take the short cut to qualifying to teach in a charter school can be no more than 10 percent of a charter school’s teachers. Or they can be up to 90 percent. It’s confusing.

The previously mentioned legislation, House Bill 1182, comes down on the side of charter advocates by saying people with a charter school license – or any of various other alternative teaching licenses – can be up to 90 percent of the teachers in a charter school. The bill was approved by the House and will be heard Wednesday by the Senate Education and Career Development Committee.

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2 thoughts on “Confusion over charter school teacher licensing

  1. Pingback: Quick takes on the 2017 legislative session | School Matters

  2. Pingback: New law trusts charter schools on teacher hiring | School Matters

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