Legislative Testimony for LB668: Adopt the Alternative Certification for Quality Teachers Act
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.
The intent of LB668 is to address the teacher shortage in our state.
The Platte Institute appreciates this intent, but we also appreciate how LB668 poses an opportunity to lessen barriers to individuals who are trying to enter Nebraska’s workforce as educators in grades K through 12.
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 regarding 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 particularly due to the presence of Offutt Air Force Base.
Alternative or non-traditional teacher certification was initially introduced to fill critical teacher shortages. Today, alternative certification has been widely adopted to recruit individuals who hold college degrees and want to pursue work as teachers but do not have backgrounds in education. According to a 2015-2016 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 18% of teachers leading classrooms in public schools entered teaching through an alternative pathway.2
A teacher vacancy survey conducted in the fall of 2018 by the Nebraska Department of Education revealed that of the 451 Nebraska districts/systems in the state (244 PK-12 public school districts, 17 ESUs, and 190 nonpublic school systems), 114 districts/systems reported a total of 302 unfilled positions, up from 112 districts reporting 232 vacancies in a 2016 survey.3
The survey offered potential solutions for the districts/systems that were surveyed to choose from to address the issue of unfilled positions. The top 2 solutions chosen essentially dealt with allowing provisional or temporary certification.
LB668 is supported by the Platte Institute because 1) it would establish reciprocity by allowing individuals who hold teaching certificates in good standing in other states to teach in Nebraska, and 2) it would allow individuals to obtain a temporary two-year teaching permit while meeting requirements for completion of an alternative teaching certification program.
LB668 helps lessen the opportunity costs that can be a significant barrier to earning an income when one’s ability to enter the workforce is delayed. I hope you will consider advancing LB668.