The plan to de-professionalize teaching in Kansas fails to distinguish "temps" from professionals.
Kentucky had a desperate shortage of school teachers in 1968. I began teaching in Kentucky after my junior year in college. Because I did not have full teaching credentials, I was a "permit" teacher. Some Kentucky elementary permit teachers only had a high school degree!
My salary was $250 a month. Even adjusting for inflation since then, that was very low. I returned to the university to finish my biology teaching degree in summers. And I received a major salary boost when I completed certification.
China faces the same situation today, where young college graduates with degrees in their subjects refuse to go back to the primitive conditions found in the countryside. And China also has high school graduates teaching in rural elementary schools today.
I have great sympathy for school superintendents who cannot attract qualified teachers to come and live in remote rural Kansas. Currently, there is less than one new secondary science teacher being graduated across Kansas for every ten vacancies. This situation is rapidly getting worse. What are the nine-out-of-ten superintendents supposed to do for those classrooms of science students with no teacher? They will have to put someone in that classroom, the best person they can find "to hold down the fort," until there are competent teachers that apply. That is already happening.
But both Kentucky and China know that labeling those "temps" as fully licensed teachers is wrong.
First, that makes it appear that we have solved the problem. By merely changing the rules, we eliminate the shortage on paper. There is just as much of a real shortage of competent teachers as before. But now there is no visible shortage to recruit students into the field. By hiding permit teachers as real teachers, it misrepresents the state of Kansas classrooms. It harms students’ education. It is fraudulent.
Second, there is no motivation for the underprepared to complete their preparation. They have been given the mantle of being a qualified teacher—finished and done.
Elite private schools put teachers in their classrooms who have baccalaureate degrees in the fields that they teach. English majors teach English. Biology majors teach biology. The proposals for Kansas have no such requirements.
Nearly everyone has had a teacher who did not know their subject and was just one page ahead of their students in the textbook. Yes, some teacher education programs were not good at gatekeeping. Some had weaker content training. But this is certainly no rationale for throwing open the barn door to more adults who will be one page ahead of their students.
The appeal of administrators to "trust me" is no substitute for a bonafide education.
Yes, Kansas has a growing teacher shortage. We have no choice but to have some unqualified "temps" in some Kansas classrooms. But just as I was a "permit" teacher and not a fully licensed teacher, we must distinguish them.
Credentials do matter, because you cannot teach what you don’t know.