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Virginia Considering Fast-Track Teacher Licensing for Military Spouses

To address Virginia's growing teacher shortage, a state lawmaker has proposed easing the path to the front of the classroom for qualified military spouses.

Delegate Richard Bell, a Republican, introduced House Bill 2, which would allow military spouses who hold out-of-state licenses what's known as a reciprocal license without having to meet any additional requirements. If at the end of the first year on the job in Virginia the teacher scores a satisfactory rating, he or she becomes eligible for a renewable license.

The state already provides reciprocity to teachers with out-of-state licenses, but only under particular circumstances. Teachers with fewer than three years in the classroom would normally have to pass a number of tests (of academic skills, subject matter knowledge, and reading) before their three-year provisional license expires. Military spouses with a satisfactory rating would not have to take these tests.

As Liana Loewus reports in this Education Week article, more states are trying to simplify the license-transfer process. Since 2016, according to a recent analysis by the Education Commission of the States, 11 states have passed regulations easing licensure requirements for out-of-state teachers. If House Bill 2 becomes law, Virginia will join 27 other states with special licensure provisions for military spouses.

Still, even with these efforts, the teacher-shortage problem persists. Virginia Education Association president Jim Livingston told the Virginia-Pilot that he's not sure special licensure for military spouses will help matters much. He's concerned about a "Band-Aid approach" to the teacher shortage that doesn't get at what he considers the root of the problem: low teacher pay.

Portsmouth Public Schools' director of human resources and operations, Scott Ziegler, agrees. He told the newspaper that debt-strapped college students pass on teaching for more lucrative professions. Ziegler doubted that easing requirements for military spouses would put a dent in the teacher shortage. More helpful, according to Ziegler, would be if lawmakers considered offering free tuition at a public university for college-goers who agree to commit to teaching for a set number of years.

Next up, the General Assembly, which meets on January 10, will review the bill.

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