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KS Working Through Teacher Licensing Changes

The Associated Press

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Changes are in store for the Kansas teacher licensing process under a new state law aimed at making it easier for people without education degrees to get into classrooms.

Legislators passed the measure as education officials sought to increase the available pool of teachers in science, math, engineering and technology, the Lawrence Journal-World reported (http://bit.ly/1o7Yfwd). The law, which takes effect July 1, will allow people with bachelor's degrees and significant work experience in the designated fields to teach in secondary schools.

The licensing changes were added to a school finance bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback aimed at satisfying a March 7 order by the Kansas Supreme Court. Legislators loosened the requirements in order to help districts attract faculty to teach new career and technical education courses. Another provision of the same bill also stripped teachers of their tenure rights — though districts may still negotiate tenure at the local level.

The law takes effect July 1. Under the law, applicants can be granted a Kansas license if they have a valid out-of-state license and pass required tests by the state board; have at least a bachelor's degree and five years of work experience in science, technology, engineering or math; or hold an industry certification in a technical profession with at least five years of related work experience.

Members of the State Board of Education were moving forward with similar changes when the state law was passed.

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"The department was in middle of changing many of the licensing regulations anyway," said Scott Gordon, an attorney for the department. "We were literally halfway through the process when the bill became law."

The State Board of Education will review proposed rules and regulations in the coming month to implement the new state law. The board is also considering changing the fees, adding $12 to $15 to the cost for first-time applicants and renewals.

Staff told the board last week that the changes were generating interest from other states from potential teachers interested in coming to Kansas. Gordon said he's advising districts to be cautious when hiring until the new laws can be sorted out this summer.

"I always advise districts that they shouldn't hire anyone until they have a license in hand," he said. "Sometimes you hire someone thinking they'll get a license, and then they don't. But we don't make hiring decisions. That's a risk of the local district."

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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