HELENA — Montana’s Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is encouraging public comment on recently proposed changes to teacher licensure.
The recommendations come at the end of a months-long process of revisions that began in November of 2020.
A 24-member task force of Montana educators and administrators worked to review and recommend changes to chapter 57 of OPI's administrative rules. This set of rules focuses on teacher licensure in the state of Montana.
After Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen reviewed the recommendations, she passed them along to the Board of Public Education.
In January the board reviewed and revised the recommendations. Now, the proposed changes are open to public comment through 5 p.m. on April 8.
The goal is to improve teacher retention and attract more out-of-state teachers to ease the shortage of qualified teachers in the state.
Some of the proposed changes include: Increased access for expired licensees to reenter the classroom, acceptance of lifetime licenses, more recognition of alternative teacher preparation paths, license reciprocity from other states for military spouses and dependents, and recognizing licenses for nationally board-certified teachers.
“I know that we have work to do with our partners in the legislature on multiple avenues, and I'm not asking for money. I'm asking for flexibilities. I'm trying to cut some red tape, so if I'm a board-certified teacher in Alabama right now, I can't come into Montana and be board certified in Montana and have a pure, easy licensing, smooth induction. There is a hurdle,” says Arntzen.
Rather than looking to other states, Amanda Curtis, President of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, believes the answer to the teacher shortage can be found within Montana. She says that we are losing highly qualified Montana teachers to other states with higher pay, better insurance benefits, and more affordable housing.
“Montana has really, really high-quality teachers where our educator prep programs are turning out and graduating very high-quality teachers. And to look to fixing our teacher recruitment problem in Montana, it would be a lot smarter to look at ways to make their health insurance more affordable, so they get to keep more of their paycheck and have a higher take-home pay than it would be to look at a way we can just put any warm body into a classroom,” says Curtis
Public comments for the proposed changes can be sent to the executive director to BPE@mt.gov and will be shared with the board and be included as part of the public record. On Feb. 24, the board of Public Education will hold a public hearing in Room 303 of the Montana State Capital at 9 a.m.