Kentucky House to consider bill designed to recruit and retain teachers

Proposed legislation would provide a new option for obtaining certification through a residency program

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Aspiring teachers in Kentucky would have a new option to gain certification through a residency program under Bill 277.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved HB 277 on Wednesday. The bill’s lead sponsor, Republican Rep. Walker Thomas of Hopkinsville, said the bill’s goal is to recruit and retain more teachers in Kentucky through a “build your own” approach.

“We all know we have a shortage,” Thomas said. “There are quite a few districts currently operating with emergency certifications.”

Thomas was joined by Beverly Fort, the teacher recruiter for Christian County Public Schools, to testify in support of HB 277. Fort said she believed the legislation would help address the teacher shortage.

“Creating a ‘develop your own’ teacher residency program will allow for a pipeline of teachers to produce new teachers,” Fort said. “This new option will still be rigorous. It will still be necessary to pass the Praxis, a partnership with an accredited university, while these candidates work alongside a master teacher to gain valuable and in-depth training and opportunities to teach.

The proposed residency program would take three years and allow the participant to receive a bachelor’s degree and initial certification.

The current version of HB 277 only allows certain districts to participate in the program. The first condition is that 65% of the population of the district be entitled to a free or reduced price lunch. The second requirement is that only 5% of teachers in a district can hold emergency certification or provisional certification.

Democratic Rep. Tina Bojanowski of Louisville and Republican Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty of Belton asked Thomas if changes could be made to open the residency program to more counties. Thomas said he would be willing to work on a floor amendment to address those concerns.

Democratic Rep. Charles Miller of Louisville, a retired high school principal, said Kentucky needs the bill.

“I think where you really learn to teach is once you get there and start doing,” Miller said.

Explaining his ‘yes’ vote, retired teacher and committee vice-chairman, Republican Steve Riley of Glasgow, said Kentucky’s teacher shortage crisis was ‘unimaginable’. He suggested a task force or task force to look into the matter.

“We need to find whatever means necessary to bring more quality people into our profession, and we need to look at lots of different options to do that,” Riley said.

HB 277 will now go before the full House for consideration.

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