FRANKFORT— Aspiring teachers in Kentucky would have a new option to gain certification through a residency program under House Bill 277.
The House Education Committee unanimously approved HB 277 on Wednesday. The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, said the goal of the bill is to recruit and retain more teachers in Kentucky through a “grow your own” approach.
“We all know that we have a shortage,” Thomas said. “There are quite a few districts that are operating on emergency certifications right now.”
Thomas was joined by Beverly Fort, the teacher recruiter for Christian County Public Schools, in testifying in favor of HB 277. Fort said she believes the legislation will help address the teacher shortage.
“Creating a ‘grow your own’ teacher residency program will allow a teacher pipeline to produce new teachers,” Fort said. “This new option is still going to be rigorous. It is still going to require passing of the Praxis, a partnership with an accredited university, all while these candidates are working alongside a master teacher to gain valuable and extensive training and opportunities to teach.”
The proposed residency program would take three years to complete and result in the participant receiving a bachelor’s degree and initial certification.
The current version of HB 277 only allows certain districts to participate in the program. The first requirement is that 65% of the district’s population must qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The second requirement is that only 5% of a district’s teachers can hold an emergency certification or provisional certification.
Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, and Rep. Melinda Gibbons Prunty, R-Belton, asked Thomas if changes could be made to open up the residency program to more counties. Thomas said he would be willing to work on a floor amendment to address those concerns.
Rep. Charles Miller, D-Louisville, a retired high school principal, said Kentucky needs this bill.
“I think where you really learn about teaching is once you get there and start doing,” Miller said.
In explaining his “yes” vote, retired teacher and Committee Vice-Chair Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, said the teacher shortage crisis in Kentucky is “unimaginable.” He suggested a taskforce or working group to look at the issue.
“We’ve got to come up with whatever means necessary to get more good, quality people in our profession, and we’ve got to look at a lot of different options to do that,” Riley said.
HB 277 will now go before the full House for consideration.