Sen. Bray filibusters alternative certification bill
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Sen. Bray filibusters alternative certification bill

Date: February 27, 2008
By: Alex Lundy
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 1066

JEFFERSON CITY - In a one-woman filibuster Wednesday, Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, called an alternative teacher certification bill a "dangerous experiment."

"We'd be using our kids as guinea pigs," she said.

For more than two hours, Bray spoke against a proposal that would allow the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence to certify professionals looking for careers in education.

Bray expressed concern over the fact that the bill supports a single, out-of-state company to handle alternative certification.

"I find it very disturbing," she said. "It's just a blatant money interest bending the law their way. It plays by completely different rules than traditional certification."

But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Luann Ridgeway, R-Smithville, said this is a common practice.

"We do that all the time," Ridgeway said, citing the ACT and LSAT exams as examples of programs that are run by one company. 

The ABCTE training includes an exam, college courses, performance-based evaluation and mentor assignment. A program enrollee must spend 60 hours in a full classroom before receiving professional certification.

"This isn't something that should be done during a two-week vacation," Bray said. "It doesn't make sense to have teachers with no formal education."

Bray, who taught junior high school after her college graduation, said everyone understands that it takes additional education for an engineer to become a doctor.

"Why can't you say, 'Oh yeah, of course,' for a teacher?" she asked. "I just can't accept the fact that we should lower standards for teacher certification."

Bray said the many roles a teacher fills, from social worker to parent to traffic controller, require intensive training.

"Too many people don't understand or have the respect for what it takes to be a teacher," Bray said.

Before Bray started her monologue, Ridgeway said she added many concessions to the bill to get the greatest amount of support possible. The bill would limit program graduates to teach junior high and high school and would not allow them to teach special education.

Ridgeway said she decided on the number of hours to be spent in a classroom after factoring in other commitments a person might have.

"We don't want to put people into a box where they have to quit their job without knowing if teaching is for them," she said.

Ridgeway also added a term date to the program for August 2014, but said it will not likely be needed.

"The program will stand on its own and will probably be expanded," Ridgeway said. "If given the opportunity, it will prove itself."

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, no vote on the bill had been taken. The Senate, which went into recess, planned on reconvening at 8:30 p.m.