Democratic lawmakers push back on new online teacher training legislation

ByMike V. Cooper

Apr 14, 2021

Experienced professionals may soon have another route to becoming teachers in Indiana, under a bill that lawmakers say is designed to help tackle the teacher shortage.

Senate Bill 205 allows people 26 years and older with a bachelor’s degree to obtain a teaching license after completing an alternative training program and passing a state licensing exam. The bill is drafted to specifically allow an online program called the American Board to operate in Indiana.

The American Board program operates in several other states, and supporters of the bill point out that it includes data reports that allow the state to assess the usefulness and quality of the program.

During the debate on the legislation, Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) pointed out that school administrators have the final say over who they hire and that the bill includes several requirements for potential teachers who complete the program.

“I think we’ve built in guardrails and guardrails that make them jump enough skill circles,” he said.

The bill also prohibits licensed teachers from teaching under the special education program.

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But opponents, including the Vigo County teacher and Rep. Tonya Pfaff (D-Terre Haute), said new teachers need classroom experience before they are introduced to students.

The bill requires one year of clinical training, but only after teachers approved by the program are hired full-time.

“Students need trained teachers, not someone who has no experience to come and educate them,” she said. “The way to attract more people to the teaching profession is to increase their pay, respect their profession and include them in conversations that affect their working conditions – not by offering a license online. “

Representative Vernon Smith (D-Gary) is also challenging the legislation and said it devalues ​​the teaching profession while undermining the standards required for traditional teacher education programs. He said he was disturbed by the legislation.

“This bill proposes that, rather than paying our teachers more, the solution to this problem is to lower our standards,” Smith said in a statement.

The House sent the bill back to the Senate for final approval on Tuesday.

Contact reporter Jeanie at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.