No license to teach? No problem if proposed legislation passes

Missouri News Network

School districts could issue teaching permits to people who aren't state certified to teach under a proposal debated by lawmakers this week.

Rep. Bishop Davidson, R-Republic, said the permits could account for 5% of the teaching faculty within a single district and would address a number of Missouri’s K-12 needs.

“One is the immediate teacher recruitment issue of getting teachers and more teachers into our schools,” Davidson said of House Bill 439.

“Two, I think more broadly, ensuring that we can bring in teachers and have an adaptive teaching profession to what is an evolving economic outlook. I think we are moving away from the 40-year, retire at 62, single-career workforce, and more towards a five to 15-year multi-career workforce," he said. "I think this creates a more adaptable teaching profession that's going to be able to take advantage of that multi-career workforce in the future.”

Davidson also said the bill is intended to give more responsibility and flexibility to local districts, and it would be up to districts to decide if they want to take advantage of the hiring flexibility.

Some lawmakers were concerned about the bill, including Rep. Betsy Fogle, D-Springfield, who said constituents have reached out about their concerns with the bill, stating that teachers who aren’t certified might be ill-equipped to manage special education classrooms.

Similarly, Rep. Robert Sauls, D-Independence, said the bill would undercut the level of expertise and background of a certified teacher.

“You seem like a smart guy, you got a degree, go ahead and teach a classroom full of students with special needs and a whole host of socio-economic issues that you don't know anything about,” Sauls said to the bill sponsor

Davidson responded to lawmakers’ concerns saying he doesn’t believe the bill demeans the teaching profession as much as it opens it up.

Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-St.Louis, said that visiting scholar programs, an existing system, allow people to take additional classes and use their professional experience to teach.

Other proposed legislation discussed during the meeting of the House Emerging Issues Committee received greater bipartisan support.

A day to honor the life of Walthall Moore, the first Black person to serve as a state representative in the Missouri legislature, will take place May 1 each year if House Bill 522 passes.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, said the day would recognize Moore’s seven years as state representative along with his developments at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, where he created a Board of Curators that would include an equal number of Black and white members on the board.

“His name is in a few books, but it's relatively difficult to find out more about Representative Moore, so I think it’s fitting that we make a day in his memory,” Windham said.

Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, chair of the Emerging Issues Committee, said he supports the bill after researching Moore’s life, during which he was fascinated to find that Moore made a significant impact at Lincoln University.

Lawmakers also discussed House Bill 825, which would add penalty provisions to the offense of mail theft.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Adam Schwadron, R- St.Charles, said there has been a drastic increase in packages being stolen outside people’s homes since the start of the pandemic. Following similar legislative changes made in neighboring states, he said this bill would create clearer and more concrete grounds for prosecution around stolen packages.

Schwadron said the consequences for mail theft would depend on the value of the package, but the goal is to raise the minimum penalties.

“It could be a bow that you needed for your daughter's recital, the value of it would be $4, so with that it would probably just be a class D misdemeanor, but under this bill it would now be a Class A, which would be punishable up to a year in prison and up to a $2,000 fine,” Schwadron said.