Legislative Testimony for LB1135, Alternative Certification for Teachers
Good afternoon, Chairman Groene and members of the Education Committee. My name is Nicole Fox, and I am Director of Government Relations for the Platte Institute. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to talk about jobs this afternoon. I thank Sen. Vargas for introducing this bill.
A priority area for the Platte Institute is to make Nebraska economically competitive and lessen barriers that make it harder for workers to enter the profession of their choosing.
LB1135 addresses a nationwide problem of teacher shortages, which unfortunately is nothing new. Most states, including Nebraska, have reported shortages since data started being kept more than 25 years ago. The problem has grown more severe in recent years as the teaching profession has been negatively impacted due to a number of issues.
In their 2017 second edition of “License to Work,” the Institute for Justice cites a July 2015 White House report highlighting the fact that occupational licensing impacts employment by limiting geographic mobility.1 There is variability among states in regards to the requirements set forth for licensed occupations. To meet requirements to work in a new state, workers may need to acquire additional education, take additional exams, obtain more work experience or even go back and start over, even if they led successful careers before moving. These types of licensing barriers make little sense—workers do not become unqualified by moving from one state to another. We need to keep this in mind as Nebraska is trying to attract individuals to move to our state and also due to the presence of Offutt Air Force Base.
According to a 2016 report by the nonprofit Learning Policy Institute, teacher education enrollment dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction, between 2009 and 2014.2 In addition, there are high levels of attrition, with nearly 8% of the teaching workforce leaving every year, the majority before retirement age.
An October 2017 Associated Press article highlighted that Nebraska is facing a shortage of substitute teachers, particularly in rural areas.3 It indicated that the shortage is driven by a combination of trends, including mandatory teacher training during the school week and family leave policies that allow regular teachers to take off as much as 12 weeks at a time.
A teacher vacancy survey conducted in the fall of 2016 by the Nebraska Department of Education revealed that of the 450 Nebraska districts/systems (245 PK-12 public school districts, 17 ESUs, and 188 nonpublic school systems) in the state, 112 districts/systems reported a total of 232 unfilled positions.4 A lack of qualified applicants was the top reason for the inability to fill a position.
The survey offered potential solutions for districts/systems to choose from when identifying how to solve the dilemma of unfilled positions. The top three solutions chosen were: “Hire a person who holds a transitional certificate” (22%); “Hire a person who holds a provisional endorsement in the content area” (19%); and “Hire a person who holds a provisional or temporary certificate” (19%). LB1135 proposes this last potential solution.
For these reasons, the Platte Institute views LB1135 as a win for teachers and students. I ask that committee members advance LB1135 out of committee.