Back in August state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler proposed a new program to address the state’s chronic teacher shortages. It allowed schools to hire “community experts” – people with expertise and training in a given subject but who don’t have a specific teaching degree – to fill vacancies teaching specific subjects.
Five months later Forum reporter Mike Nowtazki reports that the program has fallen flat. There are currently over 200 teaching vacancies, and not a single position has been filled by someone through the program.
That’s not exactly an auspicious start, and even Baesler seems to be admitting defeat. “Baesler said she doesn’t expect the state to try the program again,” Nowtazki reports.
“There just isn’t enough latitude (in state law) to provide that community expert opportunity,” he quotes Baesler as saying.
It’s too bad that Baesler seems to be in retreat, because this was a sound proposal. That it hasn’t worked yet is more a testament to the limitations of existing state law – the degree requirements for issuing a teaching license are fairly tight – and hostility within the education industry to letting outsiders play in their sandbox.
Not surprisingly North Dakota United – the combined state public workers/teachers union – came out swinging against Baesler’s proposal. The stewards of occupational monopolies like teaching are generally hostile to anything which might loosen their grip. In other instance, consider the vicious and ultimately successful lobbying effort by dentists against a legislative effort to approve licensing for advanced dental hygenists who could do some of the things dentists do like tooth extraction. The motivation for the legislation was to increase access to dental care by increasing the number of people who can provide that care.
The dentists would rather not see that market it opened up. The same with the teachers, and many are more than happy to swing the credentialing sword to keep out the competition.
But public policy should be about what’s best for the public, not just special occupational interests.
Baesler (assuming she’s re-elected in 2016 which seems likely at this point despite a rocky first term) should go to the Legislature and look at getting the changes needed for her community experts program to work. And then we should give the program timed to be embraced by entrenched education bureaucrats.
Because, again, this was good policy, but it needs long term support not a summary execution after just a few months.