There is a shortage of medical doctors in rural Western Kansas. Why not allow pharmacists, nurses and veterinarians practice medicine? Presume that we have a shortage of lawyers as well. Why not let policemen practice law? We don’t. It would "de-professionalize" these fields. But this is what was proposed at the March Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) meeting. And it will come to a vote at their April meeting.
In 2012, Governor Brownback signed into law House Bill 2319 creating the "Kansas Coalition of Innovative School Districts (CISD)." This allows "...up to ten percent of the state’s school districts , at any one time, to opt out of most state laws and rules and regulations in order to improve student achievement." An additional 10 percent of USDs can join if they are Title I priority schools. Currently there are only a small number of schools in the CISD. That will rapidly change if they get their request.
Proposals to allow school districts to hire persons without teaching credentials come from two completely different school districts. The proposal from the affluent Blue Valley USD 229 is laden with "innovation spaces" and "digital learning centers." This district pays well. It has no difficulty recruiting and keeping good teachers.
Reading between-the-lines is the fact that elite private college-prep schools in Kansas do hire college graduates that lack teaching credentials but have a major in the field they will teach. These teachers working in high-tuition, high-salary collegiate schools are turning out high school graduates who are performing quite well. They turn out the best because they only take the best.
On the opposite pole is the rationale from the Hugoton District that represents the completely different plight of the majority of Kansas rural school districts. Asking for "teacher licensure freedom," Hugoton bases its request to hire-at-will based on the many problems of recruiting qualified teachers to rural Kansas. It asserts: "We want complete and total freedom from the overbearing KSDE licensure requirement." It speaks to the various tentative fixes, the high cost of tuition, their need to appear at Topeka Review Boards, and other burdens that remain under the conditional (one year), restricted (Transition-to-Teaching and alternate route), interim alternative, and provisional endorsement programs.
Another benefit seen by little rural schools is that switching the granting of licensure to local school districts also allows them to hold the new teacher captive to that district—their local "grow your own" model would not allow these local teachers to transfer their local "license" elsewhere in the state.
Both the Blue Valley "innovative program" argument and the Hugoton "can’t get qualified teachers" argument boil down to asking the State Board to "trust us" to have good people in the classroom even if they are not licensed as teachers.
Both sides will address this issue at the 10:30am open forum at the next KSBE meeting in Topeka, Thursday, April 16. The KSBE will vote that afternoon.
If approved, Kansas will become the very first state to de-professionalize teaching.