Do too many Utah teachers lack licensure, training?

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A member of the Utah State Board of Education called into question Friday significant numbers of people hired to teach in Utah public schools who do not have teaching licenses nor are they enrolled in programs to earn teaching credentials.

Each month, the board considers temporary authorizations of people hired by school districts and charter schools who are “underqualified,” have expired teaching licenses or they are certified out of state, or the state’s licensing agency is awaiting university paperwork to verify their educational attainment, or other issues.

Board member Linda Hansen said she is particularly concerned by the number of people in Utah teaching classrooms who are not only underqualified but not attempting to obtain teaching credentials.

“We’ve had parents come before us before saying, ‘We’ve got someone with no experience at all teaching our special ed kids,'” said Hansen.

As she has delved into it further, school districts or charter schools report that they were unable to find candidates who are licensed school teachers, or “this is the best candidate we could find” so that’s who was hired, Hansen said.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but it is concerning because I believe that parents believe that all the teachers are qualified that are teaching their kids. I don’t think they would ever believe that they weren’t. The fact that we’re approving teachers that aren’t is a little scary to me, ” she said.

Among the 3,676 temporary authorizations approved by the State School Board since October, one-third or 1,230 were employees categorized as “underqualified— not enrolled in program.”

Another 1,079 were categorized as “underqualified — enrolled in appropriate program.”

The State School Board has no oversight on the hiring decisions of school district or charter schools but it does oversee educator licensing and some board members wondered aloud if not approving the authorizations was an overreach.

“I wonder if we’re stepping on toes,” said board member Lisa Cummins.

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