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Ky. lawmakers advance ‘first step’ measure to address the teacher shortage

A lawmaker in a suit sits at a table behind a microphone.
Jess Clark
Republican Rep. James Tipton, of Taylorsville, sponsored HB319, which aims to address the teacher shortage.

A committee of state lawmakers advanced a bill Tuesday aimed at mitigating Kentucky’s teacher shortage.

The measure contains a number of fixes billed by proponents as low-cost in a non-budget year, including signing the state onto a multi-state compact that will make it easier for out-of-state teachers to get licensed in Kentucky.

“House Bill 319 is a good first step,” Taylorsville Republican and bill sponsor Rep. James Tipton told the House Education Committee Tuesday. Tipton, who is the committee chair, said the measure will “remove some of the red tape, and will make it easier for individuals to consider going into the teaching profession and to keep them in the teaching profession.”

The compact requires 10 states to sign on to go into effect. Tipton said he believes it may get off the ground later this year, and that if passed, Kentucky would be the eleventh state to join.

In addition to the multi-state agreement, the bill would create a marketing campaign to recruit teachers and a statewide online job portal for teaching positions, along with several other “low-cost” solutions originally put forward by the Kentucky Association of School Administratorsearlier this year.

Here’s a full list of the fixes offered in HB 319:

  • Signs Kentucky onto a multi-state teachers’ licensure agreement.
  • Requires each school district employee who leaves voluntarily to complete an exit interview and creates a process for the Kentucky Department of Education to collect data from exit interviews.
  • Directs the Council on Postsecondary Education to establish a marketing program “as funds are available” to recruit high school and postsecondary students into the teaching profession.
  • Directs the state to create a statewide job portal for school staff positions.
  • Removes the maximum award language from the Kentucky Teacher Scholarship Program. Currently the maximum award is $12,500 a semester for undergraduate students and $7,500 for post-baccalaureate students.
  • Directs the state to review alternative teacher licensure pathways and identify areas for improvement.
  • Allows non-certified staff like instructional assistants and paraprofessionals to fill in for certified teachers for the next three years.
  • Expands the GoTeachKy program to all districts. GoTeachKy recruits high school students to become teachers.
  • Creates another option for alternative teaching certification: a one-year interim teaching certificate for people with a bachelor’s degree plus four years of experience in the area in which certification is sought. A school district couldn’t have more than 10% of teachers certified through this proposed pathway, and teachers certified under this option would not be subject to collective bargaining agreements.

Some lawmakers who are also educators had concerns about the proposal that would allow non-certified staff to fill in for teachers. Rep. Tina Bojanowski, a Louisville Democrat, asked whether non-certified staff would be able to fill in long-term for classrooms under the measure.

Tipton responded that was not their “intention.”

“This would just be a tool to help alleviate some of the pressure as you will understand teachers are facing,” he said.

Republican Rep. Killian Timoney, an educator in Lexington, said he was worried about non-certified staff filling in for teachers who are paid at the higher, certified rate.

Jefferson County Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond supported the measure, but said she was hoping for more “robust” solutions, like increasing salaries, or creating loan forgiveness programs that would require funding.

“I hate to see that phrase ‘if funds are available’ when we have a record surplus,” Raymond said. “Because it really means ‘if this is a priority for the legislature.’”

Tipton said he originally wanted to offer solutions that would require more funding, but other Republican leaders say they’re hesitant to make appropriations in a non-budget year. Earlier this year, GOP leaders balked at a $200 million proposal from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to give school staff a 5% raise and fund universal public pre-K.

“The official line is ‘we’re not going to open up the budget,’” Tipton said. “But I’m still talking to people, still discussing those ideas, and maybe, before session is over with, we may see some of that come back.”

Tipton said the measure as it stands would cost the state about $750,000 in the first year, and $250,000 annually going forward.

The measure heads to the House floor.

Support for this story was provided in part by theJewish Heritage Fund.

News Youth Reporting
Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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