PHOENIX — Come this summer, school superintendents and principals will be able to hire people without formal training to teach in their classrooms.
Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday signed legislation to create new exceptions to laws that generally allow traditional public schools to hire people who have gone through traditional teacher training.
There already are some exceptions that allow people to enter the classroom while they get their certification. But the governor has argued these portals are not wide enough.
Ducey also contends the change in the law will help alleviate the shortage of teachers.
“No longer will an outdated process keep qualified, dedicated individuals out of the classroom,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Instead, principals will now be empowered to make hiring decisions and attract the best individuals to serve our students.”
That contention has been battled by Democrats and some teacher groups that have argued the answer lies not in lowering standards, but in making the profession more attractive. That includes higher salaries.
“The governor’s plan invites people without any preparation and without any classroom experience to educate our children,” said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association. And he argued in his statement that the infusion of new teachers without proper training actually will harm what already takes place in schools.
“By signing this bill, the governor is further burdening our teachers with the additional responsibility of training new, unprepared colleagues how to teach,” Thomas said. “All this does is set up a churn-and-burn model of low-wage teachers who will continue to leave after a few years, and our children will continue to suffer for the profit of adults.”
But it’s not just the Democrats who sought a veto. State schools chief Diane Douglas also said the legislation is a mistake.
“Lowering the standards for new teachers is not the way to correct the problem,” she said in a prepared statement. Douglas said there already are alternate pathways to becoming a teacher.
Douglas, a former member of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board, also said that having knowledge of a specific specialty or discipline does not necessarily impart the ability to transfer that expertise to students.
The governor on Tuesday also signed separate legislation that expands an existing loan-forgiveness program for people who go into teaching.
Current law earmarks the program for those who go to schools in areas experiencing a teacher shortage. The new law alters that to focus on those who teach in a public school that is low-income, rural or located on an Indian reservation.
Loan forgiveness also would be available to not only those who go through traditional teacher training programs but pursue certification through alternative programs.