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Lawmakers want to attract more out-of-state educators to address teacher shortage

Ken Lund
CC BY-SA 2.0

While Colorado schools continue to face a teacher shortage lawmakers at the State Capitol are looking for solutions. One such solution is House Bill 1064, a bill that would make it easier for out-of-state educators to teach in Colorado by forming an agreement with nine other states across the country to create the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact.

“As a social studies teacher at Steamboat Springs High School, as I was a few weeks ago, I saw firsthand the impact of our educator shortage and the impact it's having on our students,” Democrat Meghan Leukens, one of the bill sponsors, said to the House Education Committee on Wednesday. “This educator shortage is impacting the entire state of Colorado, especially our rural rural areas. The passage of the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact will make the lives of teachers easier when trying to move into our beautiful state.”

The compact’s goal would be to create a more streamlined process for teachers to transfer their licenses between the states included in the agreement. Apart from Colorado, the other states considering the compact are Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Washington. All ten states would have to enter the agreement for it to go into effect.

The bill, which was partially crafted by the US Department of Defense, would also include special education teachers, emerging bilingual teachers and teachers and spouses of teachers who are military members. Military personnel and their families frequently relocate throughout their careers and this bill would make it easier for those who serve to find job stability.

House Bill 1064 would also create a new inter-governmental agency called the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact Commission. The commission would manage the compact and would include representatives from each state's licensing authority or education department. Part of that management will be writing bylaws and holding regular public meetings.

Some Republicans are concerned the bill will hamper future education reforms because Colorado would be tied to other states. Others are concerned that creating a new agency will add more bureaucracy for teachers to work through when moving to another state.

“Why don't we just get rid of the barriers and get the job done?” said Representative Anthony Hartsook, also a former teacher. “I could teach overseas, I could teach in the army. I could walk out and hold a Master's degree, and I can't teach in public schools, but I did teach in charter schools. So you tell me, where's the breakdown in this barrier?”

According to supporters of the bill, the compact will actually lower barriers while also ensuring quality educators are in Colorado classrooms.

“Teaching is actually a profession,” said Amie Baca-Oehlert, President of the Colorado Education Association and a supporter of the bill. “It is not something that just anyone can do and so we want to ensure that people do have the requirements to be in front of students every single day, doing a very, very critical job. Educating Colorado students, in my opinion, is one of the most critical jobs that we have. But this compact does remove those barriers because it creates consistency across states so that people can more seamlessly come into our states.”

Baca-Oehlert also stressed how severe the teacher shortage is. According to the Colorado Education Association, not one school district in Colorado started the 2022-2023 academic year fully staffed. That has resulted in combining classrooms, which in turn resulted in large class sizes and less time teachers can spend on individual student needs.

The Colorado Department of Education found almost 6,000 teaching positions across the state ahead of the 2021-2022 school year were unfilled. It also says the percentage of unfilled teaching positions has grown each year for at least the last three years.

House Bill 1064 was approved by the House Education Committee on Wednesday by a 9-2 vote. Now it moves to a preliminary vote on the House floor.