The Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday approved two new pilot programs for educating teachers to address Kansas’ teacher shortage.
The programs are aimed at potential elementary and special education teachers. After one semester, students in the programs will receive a limited teaching license. They can then start working as teachers while they finish the two-year program.
Susan Helbert with the Kansas State Department of Education presented the program to the board last month and said applicants will need a school administrator to vouch for them before being accepted into one of the programs.
“We see this more as an immediate need that a district already has, or they already have this person that’s working for them [and] thinks that person is going to be great as a teacher,” she said.
Applicants must also already have a college degree.
Before Tuesday's vote, several people spoke during the public comment period to express concern about the pilots.
"We would be very concerned that we would bring the potentially good educators — paraprofessionals and others who would be quality educators — and set them up for failure if we don’t have the proper supports in place with an accelerated program,” said Idalia Shuman with the Kansas National Education Association.
Members of Kansas State Board of Education also raised concerns, including board member Steve Roberts, who worried that the pilot programs would further complicate the pathway to teaching in Kansas.
“I get a sense we’re just putting another spoke on the wheel,” he said. “And it needs to be simplified. It really does.”
Still, Roberts voted to approve the program, along with other members of the board. Chairman Jim Porter was the lone dissenting vote.
Stephan Bisaha is an education reporter for KMUW’s Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha.