The long licensing debate starts back up

Talk about updating the state’s educator licensing system – an issue that could spark intense legislative debates next spring – got started calmly last week in the comfort of an airy Keystone Resort conference room.

The 33-member panel called the LEAD Compact Working Group convened a two-day session to get to know each other, get up to speed on the issue, ask questions and air their personal views.

Launched by Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mike Johnston, the group is supposed to develop ideas for possible legislation to update Colorado’s teacher licensing system.

The issue isn’t exactly a new one. Many observers have expected teacher preparation and licensing, untouched by any of the big reform bills passed since 2008, to come up eventually. A report on the issue, “Making Licensure Matter,” was done by the New Teacher Project and released by the State Department of Education last September, and it sparked a lot of discussion.

And Johnston, the Denver Democrat behind recent major legislation on educator evaluation and school finance, has had his eye on the topic as well. He planned to introduce a major bill on licensing during the 2013 session but pulled back at the last minute, preoccupied with getting his school finance overhaul bill passed.

There also was some speculation that a bill might face tough opposition if Johnston tried to rush it through.

The most sensitive question raised by the licensing issue is whether license renewal should be tied to the results of principal and teacher evaluations. The “Making Licensure Matter” report suggested that, and Johnston said he was leaning toward the idea. (Colorado’s new educator evaluation system, with ratings based partly on student academic growth, rolls out statewide this fall.)

Johnston and others also have suggested the licensing system to make it easier for non-traditional candidates – people who haven’t gone to teacher prep programs – to get initial licenses.

After Johnston’s bill was put on ice, he and the governor announced plans for the LEAD panel, the Donnell-Kay and Rose Community foundations came up with funding and The Keystone Center was brought on board to “facilitate” the whole process. The center’s new president, Christine Scanlan, recently resigned as Hickenlooper’s top lobbyist. She also was a cosponsor with Johnston of the 2010 educator evaluation law.

The panel is a classic Colorado across-the-spectrum study group, crafted to include every conceivable interest. The membership includes legislators, teacher prep program leaders, two college presidents, two teachers, one superintendent, one principal, one charter school leader and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, the administration’s key leader on education issues. A dozen members represent a variety of education interest groups, think tanks and foundations. (See below for full list.)

Discussion at the Friday morning session illustrated some of the differences on the issue.

“I think it’s going to make people nuts … if we pile [a major change] on top of all the other things” that school districts are trying to implement, said Sen. Evie Hudak.

“Whatever we come up with needs to be reasonable and doable … and needs to be supported financially,” said Dale McCall, head of the Colorado BOCES association.

But Scanlan noted, “To do nothing is not actually an answer most people will accept.”

Bill Jaeger of the Colorado Children’s Campaign said, “I think we need to be careful about big bets” on any single solution.

Summing up at the end of the session, Tony Lewis of Donnell-Kay urged the group, “for every solution think about how we can take the current system and make it simpler and easier.”

Convening committees large and small to develop legislation is a longstanding Colorado tradition. Sometimes they produce solid ideas; sometimes they merely provide political cover for legislators with plans already in mind.

Janesse Brewer of the Keystone Center, who helped facilitate the session, told the group. “There are policy makers here that are going to move forward” on this issue. “This process is seeking to inform those deliberations.”

The panel will meet five more times before finishing up with another two-day session in December, when it will decide on recommendations.

Disclosure: The Donnell-Kay Foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado.

Membership of LEAD Compact Working Group

(LEAD stands for Licensing Educators for Academic Development)

  • David Archer, Hickenlooper policy advisor
  • Sarah Casaletto, Battle Mountain High School teacher
  • Bruce Caughey, executive director Colorado Association of School Executives
  • Kerrie Dallman, president Colorado Education Association
  • Ken DeLay, executive director Colorado Association of School Boards
  • Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora
  • Richard Fulton, director of teacher education Fort Lewis Collge
  • Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia (also director Department of Higher Education)
  • Matt Gianneschi, vice president Education Commission of the States and former Garcia aide
  • Chris Gibbons, CEO STRIVE Preparatory Schools
  • Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon
  • Jill Hawley, associate commissioner of education
  • Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster
  • Bill Jaeger, vice president Colorado Children’s Campaign
  • Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver
  • Helayne Jones, president Colorado Legacy Foundation
  • Stephen Jordan, president Metro State
  • Rebecca Kantor, education school dean at UCD
  • Scott Laband, president Colorado Succeeds
  • Shelly Landgraf, president Colorado Association of School Personnel Administrators
  • Dale McCall, executive director Colorado BOCES Association
  • Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock
  • Kay Norton, president University of Northern Colorado
  • Carlos Perez, principal Wilson Elementary School in Colorado Springs
  • Astrid Ruiz, community relations director Teach for America
  • Mark Sass, Adams 12-Five Star teacher
  • Sue Sava, director Stanley Teacher Prep Program
  • Jane Shirley, vice president Get Smart Schools
  • Brenda Smith, Kit Carson district superintendent
  • Brenda Smith, Douglas County Federation of Teachers
  • Susan Steele, executive director Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation
  • Rosann Ward, president Public Education & Business Coalition
  • John Youngquist, DPS principal talent management director