News: Quick Takes

Senate bills address concerns over demand for qualified teachers

A pair of bills in the N.C. Senate would change the way teachers are chosen and hired.

By expanding the hiring pool, Senate Bill 448, Professors in the Classroom, and S.B., 599, Excellent Educators for Every Classroom, is meant to address a growing demand for qualified teachers.

Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, is the primary sponsor of both bills.

“It is a combination of factors that are driving these bills,” said Terry Stoops, director of research and education studies at the John Locke Foundation. “No. 1, we have seen a decrease in the number of students enrolled in schools of education, so there is a supply and demand problem where there’s a strong demand for teachers, but not the kind of supply that will meet the demand in math, science, and special education.”

Stoops said the bills follow a particular Human Resources strategy that Republicans have favored elsewhere: Don’t rely so heavily on the traditional teacher pipeline — colleges and universities — but instead explore alternative ways of getting qualified people into the classroom.

S.B. 448 would allow local boards of education to employ higher-education faculty as adjunct instructors before they get a teaching license. The teachers would still have to meet certain criteria set forth by the State Board of Education.

S.B. 599 would establish the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission, which would recommend to the state board standards for educator preparation, licensure, continuing education, and conduct. The bill would also allow for accredited organizations to become approved educator preparation programs. This essentially expands the hiring pool from colleges and universities to non-profits and for-profits with experience in training teachers.

“For decades, North Carolina has relied on both colleges and universities and the state and teachers from out of state to fill some of our critical vacancies,” Stoops explained. “But that strategy still left schools with positions that were unfilled, particularly in high-demand fields and low performing schools.”

S.B. 599 passed the House Committee on Education K-12 and was sent to the House Finance Committee. SB 448 has passed its third reading in the House.