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Teacher Licenses

February 25, 2003
By: Megan McCloskey
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 281

JEFFERSON CITY - To relieve beginning teachers of the pressure to advance their own education, the House overwhelmingly gave initial approval to a bill Tuesday by a voice vote that would allow for lifetime certification to teach in Missouri.

Legislators argued that the hurdles teachers have to jump to be able to teach not only hinders their abilities in the classroom, but also discourages them from continuing in the profession.

The goal is to encourage teachers to pursue teaching as a lifelong profession, said the bill's sponsor Danielle Moore, R-Fulton.

"We would all agree that the more experience a teacher has the better the teacher becomes," she said.

But some representatives voiced concerns that life-time certificates would encourage teachers to be lazy about their own education.

Rep. Rick Johnson, D-St. Louis County, said he likes the bill for easing restrictions on teachers, but that it goes too far.

"The legislation removes the acknowledgement of additional certification," he said. This may result in teachers no longer pursuing a master's degree.

As the system stands now teachers must take three steps to obtain a professional certificate that has to be renewed every 10 years.

The bill would change certification to a two step system. The initial step is a four year certification that increases the current one-year mentoring requirement to two years.

The teacher also would be required to participate in a beginning teacher assistance program. After a teacher successfully completed the first four years, the teacher would be granted a lifetime teaching certificate.

Rep. Yvonne Wilson, D-Jackson County, said she was concerned this would jeopardize quality over the long run.

Another argument raised during the House debate was a provision that would ease requirements for teachers with out-of-state certificates to teach in Missouri.

Right now teachers looking to relocate to Missouri have to get a five- year provisional certificate in order to teach in the state. The bill would eliminate that requirement by giving a license to those teachers with only the completion of a background check.

Moore argued that qualified teachers aren't coming to Missouri.

"It's a slap in the face to tell teachers who have twenty years experience that they need to go back to school to teach in Missouri," she said.

But Johnson said he doesn't think the state should lower standards to attract teachers.

"We don't do that for any other profession," he said.

Johnson also said the bill puts Missouri teachers at a disadvantage if others coming into the state have less requirements to meet.