By Susan Tebben, Ohio Capital Journal

A bill signed Thursday by Gov. Mike DeWine could help with the teacher shortage being experienced statewide in Ohio.

House Bill 554, a bill authored by state Reps. Mary Lightbody, D-Westerville, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, was designed specifically to bring professionals in various fields back to their previous profession as teachers in order to lessen the load current teachers hold, which includes a lack of substitute teachers to fill in.

“(Previous) legislation that has been passed to temporarily alter the requirements for substitute teachers has eased some of the pressure on classroom teachers,” Lightbody testified before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. “But there are people in Ohio who left teaching to pursue other career choices and may be willing to return to our K-12 classrooms if the pathway were easier.”

Bird told the same committee in November that the state “may not have enough students in higher education programs right now to cover the number of teachers who are forecasted to retire in the next few years.”

That concern is piled onto data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing a net national loss of about 600,000 teachers from public education since January 2020.

As passed, HB 554 requires the State Board of Education to issue nonrenewable two-year temporary educator licenses to those who have allowed their professional teacher’s certificates or professional educator licenses to expire, but don’t have any disciplinary measures on their teaching record.

The board would also be required to issue professional educator licenses to those temporary license holders who complete six semester hours or 18 units of continuing education courses in their area of licensure.

The Ohio Education Association told the OCJ on Thursday that it’s uncertain how effective HB 554 will be in addressing the teacher shortage in the state, but that the bill “will remove barriers” for those wishing to reenter the profession.

OEA President Scott DiMauro said the bipartisan support for the bill is encouraging for the future of education policy in the next General Assembly.

“It’s time to build on the momentum of this legislation to achieve the meaningful, systemic changes needed to keep more great educators in our classrooms and attract the next generation of teachers to this rewarding profession,” DiMauro said in a statement to the OCJ.

Back in September, the OEA released recommendations on remedies for the teacher shortage as part of the National Education Association’s Educator Voice Program. Those recommendations included an immediate increase to the state minimum teacher’s salary from $40,000 to $50,000, a full-funding of the Fair School Funding Plan in the next budget, boosting of educator retirement programs and extension of Public Service Loan Forgiveness deadlines.

Bird said the changes in HB 554 are “not likely to attract mass numbers” back into teaching, but even small changes such as one more teacher per county “would make a positive impact on workforce development in Ohio.”

Throughout the legislative process, the bill had the support of the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators, the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators, and the Alliance for High Quality Education.

The groups said the bill “makes sensible changes that would make it more attractive for a person with an expired license to come back into the teaching field.”

“HB 554 will not fully resolve the teacher shortage issue, but it is a positive step that will allow those who wish to re-enter education the opportunity to come back into the classroom and help districts who are struggling to fill jobs,” the groups told the Senate Primary & Secondary Education Committee when the bill moved to its chamber at the end of November.

The House and the Senate both passed the bill unanimously in December.

Reposted here with permission; original article can be read here; Image by Htc Erl from Pixabay

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