Feb. 9 House Ed.: To License or Not to License Administrators?

The most hotly debated bill before the House Education Committee was Rep. Kim Coleman’s bill HB179, allowing the State Board to license administrators and prohibiting the Board from requiring that the administrator applicant must have an education background.  The bill amends current law which allows the Board to issue a letter of authorization to a person to serve in an administrative role without an administrative license.  This bill provides that the Board may issue an administrative license outright and states that the qualifications for issuing an administrative license cannot be any of the following: have a particular graduate degree, hold a teaching license, complete an education leadership program, obtain a recommendation from a pre-service program, or have experience in education.

Rep. Coleman fielded many questions, most put to her by Rep. Moss.  Moss asked about how these administrators without education backgrounds can do evaluations of educators appropriately and effectively, and suggested there already are alternative routes to licensure if a non-traditional applicant wanted to obtain an administrator license.  Moss also asked if there was any data to support the need for the bill–is our demand so great and our supply so low?  Is there evidence that currently licensed administrators or those on letters of authorization are not effective?  Coleman stated she did not have specific data and explained it’s “not so much a response for demand for bodies but a response to a demand for qualifications and changing needs for site based administrators.”

Superintendent Brad Smith supports the bill but USBE took no official position.  The UEA, AFT, USBA, and UASSP (Utah Association for Secondary School Principals) all opposed the bill.  Patti Harrington suggested that the liability the state Board is taking on by licensing individuals who do not have the training is a significant risk. The AFT pointed out that the morale of teachers will be affected if they are under the ranks of a person who’s never been in their shoes, and UASSP pointed out that the system already allows for the appointment of administrators who do not have administrator licenses.

Currently, charter school directors and superintendents are not required to be licensed educators or have administrator backgrounds.  There are many successful charter school leaders who could not have qualified for the job if they had to be licensed educators.  On the other hand, charter teachers aren’t subject to the same evaluation laws and requirements that teachers in districts are and perhaps therein lies the distinction.

The bill passed with Moss and Poulson opposing.

Also heard was Rep. Stratton’s bill HB213 about strengthening computer filters in school, which was replaced by a substitute and left in Committee.

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