PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate advanced legislation Tuesday backed by Gov. Doug Ducey that changes the rules and qualifications for who can become a teacher in the state, drawing opposition from Democrats who say it will undermine education standards.
Ducey is so supportive of the legislation that he took to Twitter before the Senate even passed it to declare, “Sent it my way!!.”
“Let’s reform teacher certification and get more great teachers in AZ classrooms!!” he tweeted.
Senate lawmakers heatedly debated the measure before passing it along party lines with a 16-12 vote. Democrats see it as yet another dangerous education measure backed by the Republican governor.
Senate Bill 1042 would allow individuals with expertise in certain areas to obtain a “Subject Matter Expert Standard Teaching Certificate” to become eligible to teach in schools and bypass the state’s regular requirements to obtain basic or standard teaching certificates.
The bill would require candidates to have taught relevant courses for the last two consecutive years and for at least three years at an accredited college-level institution.
They would also need to have an academic degree in their subject area or demonstrate expertise through at least five years of work experience in a relevant field.
The push to ease teacher certification rules was outlined by Ducey as part of the education initiatives he laid out in January’s state of the state address. The state has struggled with a teacher shortage, and Ducey said qualified professionals who want to teach should get easier access to classrooms.
“For those who want to dedicate their energies to this noble cause, we shouldn’t let outdated rules stand in the way of getting them to the front of the classroom,” Ducey said.
During Tuesday’s final vote, however, Democrat Sen. Steve Farley said the bill will lower teacher standards and dodge the underlying problems regarding the state’s low funding of schools and low teacher wages that he and teachers say are driving them out of classrooms and causing the teacher shortage.
“We don’t solve that problem by trying to get unqualified people into the system so that they leave after two years and this bill does exactly that,” Farley said.
Supporters of Republican sponsor Sen. Sylvia Allen’s measure say it will allow more qualified teachers to enter classrooms. Allen said the bill will not demean any of the state’s current teachers.
“It is a bill that is going to attract more and more professionals, people who might have a desire to go in the classroom but are being told that they have to go back and spend a lot more money and time to be able to get certification,” Allen said going on to note even emergency teachers require certification.
The bill would issue the certificate to those that qualify without “requiring an individual to demonstrate professional knowledge proficiency” and would give them at least two years to demonstrate those skills.
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