Legislators’ concerns delay proposal to address Arkansas teacher shortage

State education officials will pull more data before proceeding

By: - August 18, 2022 11:51 am

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After it became clear state lawmakers had concerns, Arkansas education officials on Thursday pulled down a proposal that would have made it easier for individuals who have not passed teacher licensure exams to be temporarily allowed to teach in the classroom.

Deputy Education Commissioner Ivy Pfeffer said the emergency rule presented Thursday morning to the executive subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council intended to address a “severe” shortage of teachers in much of the state. 

Schools across the state have lost a significant number of teachers recently, particularly young teachers.

Pfeffer said the department would gather more data and information to make legislators more comfortable with the proposal before bringing it back for approval through the regular rule-making process, which typically takes months longer than the emergency-rule process.

Pfeffer said the department had hoped the rule could be immediately approved since districts are beginning the 2022-2023 school year.

The proposal would “allow applicants for a provisional license who are enrolled in an alternative educator preparation program to obtain a temporary license without having passed the state-mandated assessment, assuming the applicant holds a bachelor’s degree in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach, has earned  18 hours of college credit in the content area in the applicant seeks to teach, or has documented, successful relevant work experience in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach.”

Asked for data on teacher shortages across the state, education department officials said they didn’t have it Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, and committee members were irked.

“We come in here and we don’t have the numbers,” he told education officials. “That’s a problem.”

He also said he was concerned that the proposals would be “dumbing down” the requirement to become a teacher. 

Pfeffer cited a University of Arkansas study that found licensure exams are not definitive indicators of whether a teacher will be effective in the classroom.

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Hunter Field
Hunter Field

Hunter Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. He spent the better part of the last decade investigating and reporting on Arkansas government and politics. For three years, he covered education policy, medical marijuana and the Arkansas General Assembly as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Capitol Bureau. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette's projects editor, leading the newspaper's investigative team. Hunter got his start in journalism covering sports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.

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