Capital Clicks

Teacher licensure, education oversight board changes pass House

By: - March 8, 2023 9:13 pm

The legislation would create alternative licenses for K-12 teachers who do not have education degrees. (Stock photo via Canva)

Iowans who want to be teachers could have a shortcut to the classroom under legislation approved Wednesday by the Iowa House.

Lawmakers also passed a bill changing the regulations and oversight of Iowa’s teaching system.

Iowa schools are facing a teacher shortage. While Democrats say providing more funding to schools will help fix that problem, Republicans moved forward with measures they say will make Iowa’s educational careers more accessible to people who didn’t go through a traditional teaching program.

House File 255 would change Iowa’s current teacher licensing process, allowing two new routes for teacher licensure. Those with a bachelor’s degree from an accredited higher education institution and three years of work experience could apply for a teacher intern license to teach in sixth through 12th grade. They would not have to meet other current licensing requirements but would be required to complete additional coursework while interning.

The bill also creates a temporary license for those with a four-year degree from an accredited university who received alternative teaching certification from an online program. Full licensing would require completing a teacher mentoring program as well as additional programming through the state Department of Education.

Opponents, some of who are former or current educators, said these changes could create worse educational outcomes for Iowa students by not holding Iowa teachers to high standards. But Rep. Henry Stone, R-Forest City, said lawmakers need to take action to address teacher shortages in Iowa.

“We need to get out of our own way and maybe think outside of the box on what a teacher certification program looks like,” Stone said. “It might be uncomfortable trying something new because you’re not used to it. But when it when we have proven alternatives certification programs being used successfully in other states, why not give them a try?”

Iowa Board of Educational Examiners: With the governor’s private school scholarship program signed into law in January, Republicans said one of their prime focuses in 2023 will be giving parents more power over their children’s educational journey. House File 430 changes mandatory reporting requirements for Iowa teachers, but also would give parents a larger say in the state board overseeing the educators.

The Iowa Board of Educational Examiners is currently comprised of 12 members:  two members of the public, the director of the Department of Education, and nine school staff including elementary teachers, secondary teachers, special education teachers, school counselors, a school administrator and a school service personnel. The bill was amended to modify the make-up of the board to five licensed practitioners, five parents and one school board member.

Rep. John Forbes, D-Urbandale, said this change takes away power from educational professionals, who are “in the trenches” on education policy. He compared the BOEE to other professional boards, like the medical practitioner and dental boards in Iowa which are comprised mainly of people working in the field.

Rep. Brooke Boden, R-Indianola, the bill’s floor manager, brought up the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board as a counter example. Though the bill would investigate complaints against lawmakers, no legislators serve on the board.

“I don’t think boards necessarily have to be made up just of all professionals,” Boden said. “I think it’s a good mix. I think parents have a voice in school.”

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.