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Legislation aims to ease permit processes for out-of-state educators

Legislation to draw more teachers to Pennsylvania could help solve a decrease in the number of college students in the state choosing education as a career option.

Area educators and lawmakers say they support Senate Bill 224, to make it easier for out-of-state teachers to become certified to teach here.

“The Commonwealth’s current process for approving out-of-state educators presents unnecessary barriers for qualified candidates who are seeking to obtain a certificate to teach in Pennsylvania,” state Sen. Cris Dush, R-Brookville, said. “Senate Bill 224 will help make it easier to get experienced educators into Pennsylvania classrooms.”

East Lycoming Area School District Superintendent Michael Pawlik said he can certainly see the benefits of the legislation.

“Anything they can do to bring more teachers is a positive,” he said.

Pawlik agreed there has been a steep drop in the numbers of college graduates from teaching programs in Pennsylvania in recent years.

Although his own district is not experiencing a shortage of full-time teachers, he certainly understands the concern.

Loyalsock Township School District Superintendent Gerald McLaughlin also noted the drop in the numbers of college graduates from the state pursuing teaching degrees.

The big concern is filling positions with new teachers when others are retiring.

The Senate bill, which moves to the House for consideration, could certainly help attract more teachers, he said.

“It can pave the way for folks to come here a little easier,” he said.

Other aspects of the bill include requiring the state Department of Education to recognize and accept out-of-state candidates’ qualifying scores on equivalent content tests toward Department of Education testing and certification requirements. The legislation would also grant state certification to any candidate holding a valid certificate issued by the national Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

State Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, said it’s all about supporting teachers and attracting good ones.

“Since 2009, we have a 71% decrease in new teacher certifications in Pennsylvania,” he said. “If it (the bill) gets to the House floor, I will support it.”

Jersey Shore Area School District Superintendent Brian Ulmer said he would welcome any opportunity to recruit teachers.

The district presently employs about 180 and is not presently facing problems hiring full-time educators.

“The only professional position we need is a school nurse,” he said.

But Ulmer made it clear he can’t predict what the future holds for hiring teachers.

Pawlik said finding teachers for math, science and technology instruction are perhaps the more difficult positions to fill.

State Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Loyalsock Township, said Pennsylvania simply needs to do a better job of welcoming not only teachers but all licensed professions.

And, in an increasingly mobile society, it only behooves the state to make certification processes less burdensome.

“It (legislation) looks like something I would support as long as we don’t drop our standards,” Wheeland said.

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