States may join forces to combat teacher shortage

The compact would take effect when the law is signed in at least 10 states.
The Colorado State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Ten states are considering forming a compact to make it easier for teachers to move between them without having to go through the time-consuming relicensing process, an idea the states hope will help alleviate teacher shortages.

Faced with broad workforce challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, states are searching for innovative ways to staff a myriad of positions across numerous fields, including teaching.

Legislation to establish the compact has been introduced in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington, according to the Council of State Governments, which backs the compact.

Under the measures, licensed teachers in a member state would be allowed to obtain a teacher’s license from another member state more easily. The compact takes effect when 10 states have enacted the legislation.

At an education committee hearing Wednesday, Colorado Rep. Meghan Lukens (D) said the bill would help bring more teachers to the state.

“This educator shortage is impacting the entire state of Colorado, especially our rural areas,” said Lukens, a social studies teacher in Steamboat Springs. “The passage of the interstate teacher mobility compact will be a positive step in the right direction to address our teacher workforce shortage issues in the state and make the lives of teachers easier when trying to move into our beautiful state.”

The panel advanced the bill to the House floor. A Senate panel in Washington advanced its measure last week.

At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, 53% of school districts across the nation reported that they were understaffed, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, and 69% reported that too few teacher candidates applying for open positions was the primary challenge.

Currently, states set up their own licensing regime, which does not tend to be recognized across state lines. Teachers moving from one state to another must go through several steps to get a license, often having to pass exams or complete additional coursework.

Teachers holding a compact-eligible license would be able to apply for a license in another member state and receive the closest equivalent license without going through the full licensing process.

The bill would also establish a compact commission to adopt and enforce rules, manage the administration of the compact, and facilitate the exchange of information between states. It would meet at least once a year and would include one representative from each member state. The commission is funded with gifts, grants, and donations, and may levy an annual assessment on each member state to cover expenses.

The legislation, which includes a provision to allow military spouses to teach in a compact state if they have a temporary or provisional license, is supported by the Department of Defense.

The compact idea comes as some states have also sought to overhaul the licensure process for specific jobs, including teaching, to reduce barriers to entry without lowering quality.

Lawmakers in Minnesota overhauled the state teaching licensing process in 2017 and explored other changes in 2019. North Carolina in 2017 established a commission that has authority over teacher licensing.