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North Carolina Measure Would Allow College Professors in K-12 Classrooms

This week, the North Carolina Senate passed unanimously a bill that would allow community college and university professors to work as adjunct instructors in K-12 classrooms without teaching licenses.

The bill, called "Professors in the Classroom," is one of several proposed by the Senate education committee aimed at alleviating teacher shortages in math, science, and special education across various grade levels.

Professors who venture to teach in public elementary, middle, and high schools would have to undergo criminal background checks as well as training in classroom management and how to identify and teach students with disabilities. The training, provided by either a local ed-prep program or the school district, also would have to cover "effective communication for defusing and de-escalating disruptive or dangerous behavior" and "safe and appropriate use of seclusion and restraint."

The bill also stipulates that the professors couldn't work more than 20 hours each week, or longer than six months if they're filling full-time positions. As adjunct teachers, they wouldn't be eligible for health benefits, paid leave, or participation in the retirement system.

The North Carolina Association of Educators in an emailed statement to Education Week allowed that the bill has its merits, but that it would not be needed if elected leaders would "return respect back to the teaching profession." Ultimately, NCAE president Mark Jewell said, the group's goal is to put a full-time qualified teacher in every classroom.

Until that happens, "having an educator with content knowledge is important, so in that regard having an adjunct professor in the classroom would meet that criteria and would be better than a long-term substitute with limited content knowledge," Jewell wrote in the email. He also called "critically important" the requirement for training in classroom management and teaching students with disabilities.

The bill would still need to pass in the House and be signed by the governor.

In Other North Carolina Education News

On Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill providing relief for school districts scrambling to recruit and pay for the teachers they will need to hire to meet the lower class-size requirements the state legislature passed in 2016. The move extends the deadline to the fall of 2018 and restores a 24-student cap. Had lawmakers not agreed to the change, school districts said they would have had to lay off music, physical education, and art teachers in order to reduce class sizes to between 19 and 21 students, depending on the grade.  

Cooper, a Democrat, reprimanded Republican lawmakers in a statement, calling on them to invest more money in education. "While this legislation addresses immediate concerns, the failure of legislative Republicans to properly fund our schools has risked the jobs of educators and jeopardized our children's future," Cooper said. "It's imperative that we quit kicking the can down the road."

Republican Sen. Chad Barefoot, for his part, vowed that lawmakers will dedicate funds to pay for the teachers needed to reduce class size in the 2018-19 school year. But he said the legislature first needs more information about how districts are spending around $70 million each year that is supposed to be dedicated to class-size reduction in grades kindergarten through 3rd. The compromise bill that was just passed requires districts to report on this money more often and in more detail, reports the Citizen-Times.

In other action, Senate Bill 462, called the "UNC UTeach Program," has also passed the Senate unanimously, but has yet to be passed in the House. The bill calls on the University of North Carolina system to evaluate the University of Texas at Austin's UTeach Program, which recruits STEM majors into the teaching profession by allowing them to earn a teaching certificate concurrent with their degree. If the program passes muster, it would be added to course offerings at North Carolina University.

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