Politics & Government

As NC House and Senate disagree over licensing issue, teacher jobs are in limbo

Teachers across North Carolina face losing their jobs in less than three weeks as state lawmakers try to work out a deal over whether to give educators more time to pass their licensure exams.

The state Senate voted Thursday not to back a bill passed by the House on Wednesday that would give teachers additional time to meet licensure requirements. Now a committee made up members of both bodies will try to work out a compromise before the June 30 deadline passes for some teachers who need a legislative extension to avoid losing their jobs.

Sen. Tom McInnis, a Republican from Richmond County and one of the bill’s primary sponsors, told his colleagues Thursday that the House had made too many changes to the version the Senate had passed in May.

“They massaged it a little bit too heavy over there, and we need to work on it a little bit,” McInnis said.

The clock is ticking on the issue. Groups such as the N.C. Association of School Administrators are urging lawmakers to give quick approval.

Elementary school and special education teachers across the state have complained about the Pearson math exam that the state had been requiring them to pass. Teachers say the exam, which is being phased out, asks them questions on topics such as calculus that they won’t be teaching their students.

School district leaders have warned that they’re in danger of losing good teachers who are having problems passing the test.

Senate Bill 219 gives a one-year extension to beginning teachers whose licenses are set to expire this month because they couldn’t meet licensure requirements. It also allows school districts to issue limited three-year licenses to teachers who’ve failed the licensure exam.

The House made changes to the bill, such as allowing all school districts and charter schools to issue the limited license. The Senate version limited the license to smaller and rural counties where lawmakers said the need was more acute than in affluent districts.

Other changes made by the House included creating a transitional license for licensed teachers hired from other states and lowering the number of years needed to get a lifetime license to 30 years of experience.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.