Lowering the Bar (Again) is Not the Answer to Idaho’s Teacher Shortage

“The IEA is vehemently opposed to House Bill 221, which would allow school districts to self-certify teachers based on extremely minimal qualification thresholds. To put someone in charge of an Idaho classroom just because they are over the age of 18 and have a bachelor’s degree is a huge disservice to students and disrespectful to our well-trained, highly qualified professional educators.

The legislature continues to insist on band-aids and shortcuts, rather than taking meaningful, long-term steps to address Idaho’s issues with teacher recruitment and retention. The state has already made the questionable decision to expand alternative certification, but at least in that scenario there is an expectation of making progress toward certification from the state. There is no such provision in HB 221.

The state has a constitutional mandate to provide a “uniform” public education, but without consistent, robust benchmarks for teacher certification, they are unable to do so. Every student in every classroom deserves a well-trained teacher, regardless of where they live or the relative affluence of their district.

Idaho’s teacher retention rates are far below the national average, and the Teacher Pipeline Workgroup released two reports identifying the root causes and suggesting solutions. The legislature has shown little interest in moving forward with these tangible solutions to address the recurring problems, opting instead for shortcuts. HB 221 is their latest effort at reinforcing an “anyone can teach” mindset and a “warm body” approach.

Educators have identified several reasons why even more of them are considering leaving the profession. Addressing these concerns would be a more productive teacher retention strategy.

  • Dramatically increased workload and stress, especially during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Unwieldy class sizes. Idaho has the sixth-highest average class size in the nation
  • Veteran teachers who have seen little, if any, increase in salary over the last decade
  • Educators facing a 20.9% “wage penalty” compared to other professions
  • A lack of respect for their work and their profession

A highly qualified teacher is the single most important factor in student success. Lowering the bar—again—makes the dynamic haphazard and threatens student achievement. Idaho students, parents, and professional educators deserve better.”

Layne McInelly

President, Idaho Education Association

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