Under the Dome

NC Senate envisions non-traditional teacher prep programs

Sen. Chad Barefoot
Sen. Chad Barefoot N&O file photo

The state Senate wants to ease the teacher shortage, but critics said a bill passed Monday will make it hard for people to switch careers to teach.

Schools across the state have a hard time finding teachers. Enrollment in college and university schools of education has dipped over the years.

The Senate bill would allow new teacher preparation programs that are not part of college and universities. The bill also changes the way adults switching careers get into teaching, replacing what’s called a lateral entry license with a residency license.

“We need to have a wholesale reform of how we do education preparation,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican.

The State Board of Education would approve the non-traditional programs recommended by a new Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission.

The bill’s critics said straying from traditional teacher education programs is a bad idea.

“This would allow anybody who wants to train a teacher to do so,” said Sen. Gladys Robinson, a Guilford County Democrat. “That is not an acceptable standard to me.”

Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a former engineer who became a math and science teacher, said the bill would make it harder for people to switch careers to teach. Career switchers would need to obtain a residency license that requires teacher preparation courses be completed in two years. Lateral entry teachers have three years to complete required courses.

Unintended consequences will be “the extinction of educators in the classroom,” said Smith-Ingram, a Northampton County Democrat. “If we want excellent teachers in the classroom, we need to support them with a program that’s going to work.”

Barefoot said the bill is based on a similar Texas law.

The bill passed 35-13, largely along party lines. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner