The Kansas State Board of Education is allowing unlicensed teachers to work in six school districts, including Blue Valley and Kansas City, Kan.
The measure was poised to fail, but it passed Tuesday 6-4 after a compromise.
Board member Kathy Busch of Wichita dropped her opposition when proponents tweaked the measure so the state board would retain greater control over hires in the six districts. Concordia, Hugoton, Marysville and McPherson are the four other districts.
More than a dozen educators and parents tried to dissuade the board from exempting the districts from the state’s licensure regulations.
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The measure waives the state’s licensure regulations for school districts in the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program the Legislature approved in 2013.
Supporters contend it helps address teacher shortages and hard-to-fill subject areas. Opponents say it hurts students and is a slippery slope for education.
In their applications to be included in the coalition, both Blue Valley and Kansas City, Kan., wanted exemptions from the state’s teacher licensure regulations.
Tuesday’s state board action gives the districts the flexibility they want but hope not to need.
“It’s another tool in our toolbox that we don’t expect to use very often,” said Blue Valley deputy superintendent Mike Slagle.
The district is strained sometimes when it tries to hire teachers for foreign languages or to teach in the specialized classrooms of its Center for Advanced Professional Studies, he said.
Blue Valley’s teacher representatives in the National Education Association have opposed lifting the licensure requirements, saying they are concerned about the precedent it would set, Slagle said.
“They’re concerned how other districts might use it,” Slagle said. “But we are on the same page that we don’t want anybody in front of our kids that isn’t good for our kids. We agree there.”
Kansas City, Kan., also welcomed the flexibility.
“We will certainly seek to take advantage of the option in order to hire qualified teachers in hard-to-fill positions,” district chief of staff David Smith said by email to The Star.