Topeka Hoping to help school districts cope with teacher shortages, the Kansas State Board of Education today will consider licensing changes that will allow greater flexibility in who can teach what.
"We think it will reduce a little bit the barriers that we see in the teacher licensure system without doing anything to reduce the quality of the people," said Martha Gage, who is director of teacher education and licensure for the Kansas State Department of Education.
Gage said changes are needed because Kansas schools are "facing some critical shortages," especially in science and math instruction.
The state board will have a public hearing today on the proposed changes and vote on the recommendations Wednesday. The proposals have been in the works for more than one year.
For example, a person who is licensed to teach one subject at the high school level can't teach another subject unless they have returned to school to be specifically trained in that subject.
The proposed changes would allow that teacher to teach another subject after they pass a competency test. Oftentimes teachers, through their minor studies in college or continuing education, become proficient in more than one subject, officials say.
"This will have the potential to assist both teachers and school boards to be better able to put fully licensed teachers in the classrooms at the middle school and high school level," said Peg Dunlap of the Kansas-National Education Association.
Gage said the changes also would allow teachers who are licensed to teach one of the sciences - such as biology - to teach another science subject, such as chemistry, if they pass the competency exam.
Mary Rodriguez, the Lawrence school district's executive director of human resources, said the district feels the crunch of the shortage, particularly in areas such as special education.
"I applaud anything that can take place that will allow more teachers to get into the profession that are of high quality," she said.
A public hearing on teacher licensing regulations is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today before the Kansas State Board of Education at the Kansas State Education Building, 120 S.E. 10th Ave. in Topeka.
The board will vote on the regulations Wednesday.