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Lawmakers are trying to make it easier for teachers to move states

When teachers move states, their licenses often don't come with them. It's a bipartisan mission lawmakers hope to fix to lessen the teacher shortage.
Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-27 18:13:27-04

School districts across the U.S. are grappling with teacher shortages, bringing with it increased workloads for teachers and an impact, some say, on students.

One issue exacerbating the lack of teachers is the tough process of getting licensed, particularly after moving.

When Laurie Cooper began teaching, she lived in Florida.

"I had to take four tests there to prove I was worthy of being a teacher, pay all my licensure things in Florida, and I got a five-year professional certificate," Cooper said.

She moved from Florida to Tennessee, where they accepted her tests and licensure that she previously received. But when she came to Colorado — where she's currently a special education teacher at a school, she says, lacking other special ed teachers — that wasn't the case.

"It's at great time and cost to have to do these," she said. "Each test costs between $150 and $180 that I have to take. They take many hours plus all the practice. It's hard. It makes you feel like they don't trust you as a professional."

Cooper put in the time and the money to take the tests and get her proper licenses needed in Colorado, but Colorado State Rep. Meghan Lukens and Rep. Mary Young said other teachers in similar situations end up never teaching again. It's part of the reason the state has officially joined the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact.

"It streamlines the process and eliminates barriers for teachers that want to move into the state of Colorado," Lukens said.

Young said nine other states look to be moving forward with similar legislation, and 10 states are required for the compact to be initiated.

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State Sen. Janice Marchman explained, so far, Utah and Colorado are the first to legally enact the compact in which states agree to recognize each other's licensing. Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana are all working on it.

"This is a pretty non-partisan issue. This is really a practical issue of getting gaps filled in states and getting people to work," Marchman said.

This is welcome news to people like English language development teacher John Germann. After 28 years teaching in Japan, he recently moved back to the states with an unclear future in the profession.

"For the first eight years, I taught in a high school, and then I moved on to higher education. I had all my teaching credentials in Japan. I was a tenured professor when I moved back here," Germann said. "We need to be able to get these states on board and say, 'Hey look, you passed those tests in your state. Alright, that's good enough for us.'"

Germann says he sent out over 50 applications, but most schools didn't have the time or patience to wait for him to get his licenses, except the school where he currently teaches.

"If they hadn't rolled the dice on me, I would be doing something else right now and not applying nearly three decades of teaching experience," Germann said.

Moving is such an integral part of our society — whether it's for something like family or a spouses relocation. Amie Baca-Oehlert, the president of the Colorado Education Association, says it's not worth losing great educators.

"We have many people who are passionate about wanting to work with students, but the barriers, the things that are put in place to prevent them from coming into the classroom are sometimes just too much," Baca-Oehlert said.

From politicians to teachers, many say this won't work unless bigger issues like pay and affordable housing are dealt with, but they point out this is a start to bigger change.

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