Arkansas Legislative Council Executive Subcommittee
August 18, 2022
Freno [No video available prior to this point]… Lori Freno, general counsel, Arkansas Department of Education.
Saracini Karli Saracini, assistant commissioner.
Freno Thank you. Representative Wardlaw and members, thank you so much for hearing our request for emergency rules this morning. The emergency is that the state of Arkansas is suffering from a severe teacher shortage, and the emergency rules would increase equitable access to effective teachers to Arkansas students by enabling qualified applicants who are enrolled in alternative educator preparation programs but who have not yet passed the state mandated assessment to obtain a provisional teaching license for up to three years. The– in lieu of having passed the state assessment, however, the applicant would have to either hold a bachelor’s degree in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach, would have earned 18 hours of college credit in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach, or have documented successful, relevant work experience in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach. If there are any questions, we have the Educator Effectiveness and Licensure team from the department here. And we would be happy to answer any questions.
Wardlaw We do have a question. Senator Hickey, you’re recognized.
Hickey Yes, ma’am. I’m over here to your left. I heard what you said. Give me the numbers. You said there’s a severe teacher shortage. Tell me where those are at and what those numbers are across the state.
Saracini Senator Hickey, I don’t have definitive numbers. We don’t have local data collected in an aggregate form. We have numbers. We can get numbers of emergency teaching permits, teachers that are teaching on waivers. The most severe areas are going to be in southeast Arkansas, where in some districts you have well over, well more than 25% of teachers who are teaching on a waiver from licensure.
Hickey It’s not what I asked. You all are coming before us. And your comment, ma’am, ma’am, is there’s a severe teacher shortage across the state. And we all hear that rhetoric all the time. And maybe that’s so. But you come before us, and you don’t have the numbers. Why have you not reached out– do it, do it online, however you do it– and say ABC School District, how many teachers, how many teachers are you short and what subjects are those in? So that we will know, we will know what the real numbers are before we go down this path. Because I’m going to tell you, I’ve had a, you know, I’ve had a little bit of experience in this. I was on a school board for a few years, and there’s a reason I’m not– don’t get on Education because I know how hard it is. And I understand what you’re up against from more ways than one. But what I know and what I see is that you’ve had facilitators– you have facilitators right now, you have career coaches, you have all of these type people that are not teaching. And most of the time, those people are veteran type teachers who no longer want to be in the classroom. And I can understand that, especially in today’s society with the way things are. But is it time to totally revamp this, pull back to the basics? Because I don’t see our scores increasing. We sit out here and act like our scores are increasing, but we don’t see it. So is it time that we bring those teachers back into the classroom instead of trying to go the other way? Because if– and I truly do believe, as I’ve said multiple times, that in this next session that, that we’re going to increase teacher salaries. And I can’t say that by myself. That’s up to this body. And I think that we’re going to try to do it in a significant fashion. But to do that, I think we’re going to have to look at the whole package from a macro standpoint and to try to pull that back. So have you all looked at pulling those individuals that are, that are out there doing that other type of work, which I’m not for sure it’s not a bunch of busywork, just to be blunt– bunch of paperwork that probably needs to be eliminated that nobody’s looking at? So what are we doing on that standpoint? Have we looked at it from that fashion?
Wardlaw Senator Hickey, Dr. Ivy, I really want to hear these answers. We’re having technical difficulties. So I’m going to call for a 5-minute recess so that we can reset the computer in the room. I’m truly, truly sorry. I know you’re in the middle of this, but we have to do that at this moment. Stand in recess for 5 minutes.
Wardlaw If you would, hit your button. And we’ll go ahead and get started where we left off.
Wardlaw Sorry for the interruption.
Hickey All right. Do I need to repeat all that or do you want me just to begin with, have we looked at moving those facilitators, career coaches into the positions we need? And I’m real interested in the numbers. We sit down at the end of the table and we say this, but you all have not gathered the numbers. So I’m very interested in this part.
Pfeffer Yes, sir. So we will, we will get those numbers for you. So we’ll, we’ll work on that today. And we will try to, to have something ready by next week on numbers so that we have a true picture of where we’re starting school and where we have those gaps. What you said is absolutely true. We have started looking at district numbers, of the numbers of employees that they have, and we want to go back and match that to the number of classroom teachers that they have and that they need versus the number of other employees. I think it’s going to be important for all of us to understand going into the next session what, what the workforce looks like, what types of positions are being filled in schools, and is that creating more of a problem or is it exacerbating the problem of shortages where we know that there are cases, again, where there are large numbers of teachers teaching who are not licensed. So we definitely need to, to address all of that. I think in that opening comments, maybe something we should have also pointed out was that a few months ago our state board asked us to do some analysis for how the licensure tests are playing into lower numbers of teachers entering the workforce. We know that we’ve had increases of turnover over this past year, especially with younger teachers. So we have fewer people going into programs, we have fewer people coming out having successfully passed all of the licensure exams. So this rule change is really to address that. And part of the reason why to do it now is because we do have several areas where they’re in need of teachers.
Hickey Well, I appreciate your comments. And, and I’m gonna listen to the rest, if there’s any other conversation on this. But I’m going to tell you, I really struggle that you come in here and just throw out that we’ve got the shortage, and we don’t know what those are. And then we sit at the end of the table and say, say, well, we think that that may be causing a larger problem. We’re not for sure. We’re looking at it. And then we’re going that way, when possibly we could go back and just have those districts to pull those seasoned educators out of those positions– because I know for the most part, those are the individuals that are sitting there. They’re in those positions. I don’t know that anybody in here– I mean, if we talk about these test scores again– I’m going to go back to that. If they’re not, if they’re not increasing, maybe those individuals are– maybe they’re the ones that need to be going back into the classroom instead of the other way. So, Mr. Chair, I’ll just listen to the rest of the comments.
Wardlaw Thank you, Senator. One thing before I go to the next question. Members, we do have a large attendance here today for members that are very interested in this issue. Therefore, I’m going to recognize committee members first and then I will recognize the other members in the room for questioning. I do know we have the chair of House Ed in here, so I just want to make sure that we’re inclusive to everybody. This is a sensitive subject. Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think it’s important for us to kind of lay, lay a picture of what the current situation is. And you can’t really do that without good strong data and facts. And so what we have discussed before is you may have this teacher shortage, but how was it created? Has there been an in-depth analysis as to why it is that way in certain schools? And the answer to that really is no. Because, as Senator Hickey has stated and some of the concern is, you have a lot of schools that are choosing to pull those season certified teachers out of the classroom and moving them into different positions. So, and, and most of the time, those different positions are better, better paid. There are higher pay than what they’re getting in the classroom. Well, that’s exasperating the problem. And so, you know, we need to go, well, wait a minute, what is our objective here? Is our objective here to teach students to read? Is our objective here to teach students how to do math? Is our objective here to teach history and American civics and science? Is that the objective? Or is the objective just to employ more people at a higher rate of pay? That is the problem, in my opinion. Because you have people that are moving from teacher positions into principal positions, into assistant positions, into ALE coordinator positions, into curriculum director positions, into all these different positions, and you’re expanding that administrative level at these schools, and what’s suffering are the teacher level at the schools. We should be about the teacher level at the schools. And so the answer is not, you know, come to us and try to, you know, basically give us a solution that’s really not a solution that really understands the whole entire picture. And I think that’s the concern for a lot of us, because we are very connected to our schools and our school districts. I mean, I was on the phone this morning for an hour and a half talking with former Senator Randy Laverty. Senator Randy Laverty was one of the key instrumental senators that created the special needs catastrophic funds. Why? Because of schools in places like Deer-Mount Judea and Jasper and some of the other schools– so in very, very rural parts of the state of Arkansas. So we have to understand this picture and we have to understand it for those levels of school districts, as well as Pine Bluff or Lake Village or Helena-West Helena or Springdale or Rogers or Cabot or whomever. We have to understand that in its entirety, because we’re policymakers, and that’s our job. And our job is to bring that level of understanding so that we have a safe process that takes into consideration a very small, isolated school, as well as a very large school that’s very equipped in an area that might be a lot easier to hire people. So I think when you frame and you come before us and you frame it as, you know, kind of a, a political talking point, that gives me nothing to work with because, because I’m tired of just hearing a rhetoric that’s not based in fact and analysis. And that’s where we have to be. We have to be in a place where there is robust analysis, where there are actual numbers, where there’s actual data, where there are facts that you can prove to us why things are necessary. And so I think that’s the frustration and the point where, you know, we kind of are just throwing out this solution and this solution or this solution without it being completely fully analyzed and understood. So, you know, I think there are a lot of– there’s a lot of work to do between now and January. And we’ve got to all get on the same page as to what those solutions are and what they look like and what we’re trying to achieve here. Because to me, we’ve got to get back to the basics of making sure our students are proficient in reading, are proficient in math, and we’re not just out here creating more of a level of bureaucracy that gets us further away from the main goal of success for that student. So, so, so I need you to be very specific about this emergency rule and about the policy behind why it’s necessary to change this licensure requirement and not, you know– I just, I want an analysis about why this is necessary.
Pfeffer And, Senator, I can give you a copy of the preliminary report that Dr. Josh McGee with the Office for Education Policy provided last Thursday at the State Board meeting as part of fulfilling their request for us to do an analysis of how teacher licensure policies are impacting our workforce. And we have planned to go over that with the Education Committee at the next meeting but we can definitely make sure you all have a copy. And what it has pointed out that I think is very important for us to go ahead and proceed, since we are at the beginning of the school year and we have an opportunity for– to be able to have teachers with a provisional license enter the classroom. It’s that– we’re finding out that licensure exam scores are only partially predictive of classroom effectiveness. Right now, though, we have a rule that requires a person who is enrolling in a nontraditional licensure program to have to have passed the test before they can get a license. So they get stuck in that program, or they can only go work in an area that has a waiver from teacher licensure. This would go ahead and give them that license so that they could be there with kids and so that they could be– really, it would be like giving them an opportunity for a performance based assessment of their content knowledge over time, where they could be, be working, working toward that standard license in the future.
Irvin How many, how many are we talking right now?
Pfeffer So as of last week, we knew of at least 113 who were on an emergency permit or in our state ARPET program. The Southeast– well, University of Arkansas Monticello said they had about 70 that they knew they would have. And then in our southeast schools that have teachers teaching on waivers, a majority of those candidates would now be able to have a provisional license. And the difference, too, is that under an Act 1240 waiver, you may or may not be paid on the teacher salary schedule. It may be a long term sub pay. So this would elevate them and I hope it would promote long term retention. You are correct, though, about we’ve got to make sure that we have teachers in front of students so that we can improve in reading and math and those basic things. And I think that we are committed to helping to look at what, what is going on in schools, because we can’t just go tell a district, you can’t hire somebody for that position. We don’t have the, we don’t have the authority to necessarily dictate who they hire and who they don’t.
Irvin So last question– thank you for the latitude, Mr. Chair. But you have people that are– that have worked as, as college professors but cannot teach as a certified teacher.
Pfeffer We have a pathway now for them in order to be able to get a license. That legislation was passed recently and we have actually 13 who have now taken advantage of that opportunity. That doesn’t sound like many, but we want to use those 13 to elevate that opportunity because we know that’s a, that’s a great source of talent in communities that could serve a dual purpose.
Irvin So would this emergency rule or this licensure affect that at all?
Pfeffer It would not impact the highly qualified professor route, but we want to make sure that, that we have more and more people who know and understand that opportunity.
Irvin And I’ll– last question– I’ll move on, but I may have another one later. But tell me the– tell me, do you have a roundabout idea about the level of experience these 113 individuals have or education?
Pfeffer They would all either have at least a bachelor’s degree in the content area that they’re wanting to teach in, or they have the equivalent of a minor in that area. So they have background knowledge, content knowledge in that area where they’re seeking to teach or they’ve been doing that work maybe for– so, so in the case of the teachers in southeast Arkansas, they may have been teaching under a waiver for the past year or two, and now they would qualify if they’re in a program to go in and get the provisional license even if they’ve not passed the test.
Irvin Okay. So it’s just mainly the test that’s the issue.
Pfeffer The test is the issue because in our rules, we have required that in the past. We want to change that. We want to open up some additional options. So that’s why we have to come before you. It’s to get the rule changed. We are going through the regular promulgation process also, but that takes a longer time. And with school starting that, that’s the need for us to, to be able to come to you today.
Irvin Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Wardlaw So Tuesday we had a Zoom call, and the things you just told Senator Irvin were kind of contradictory to what we learned Tuesday. You told us Tuesday that the law required that assessment and that law needed changing in this next session. You guys would say that on the record. But when you read the rule– and I’ve done it multiple times, I’ve got multiple highlighted pages here– on 1-2.14, you have struck the language “and have passed an appropriate state mandated assessment.” If you go over to 4-5.01.3.1– I’ll get really good at this before long– it says if an applicant did not receive a passing score or an official score. So there you’re saying that you would have to have a score to know what content they could teach. And it says then they would have to have 18 hours of credit, a degree in the content area or documented successful relevant work experience in that area. So which way is it? Do they have to take a test? Do they not have to take a test? And is the law requiring a test, or is it your rule? Because I’ve heard three different things in a week, so I want to know which one is right.
Pfeffer So, the law does require for a standard license that a candidate has to pass a content area assessment. The– in the rules this, for specifically around a provisional license for candidates in these programs, the law allows the state–
Wardlaw Which law requires that? Give me the code.
Pfeffer Okay. So 615 1004 requires that candidates demonstrate competency in subject matter content or on identified assessments. 617 402 also discusses a subject matter content assessment. And so a candidate will by law have to pass an assessment in order to get a standard license. Our rules are what are requiring the provisional license, to have to pass the, the assessment. So we can– if we have the rule change for provisional license, a candidate would not have to take the– would not have to pass the test. Now, I think the part that you’re referring to, and through public comment, this might need to be changed, is do they have to take it at all. And part of the reason–
Wardlaw We’re not getting public comment, because if we administer this rule today, it goes into effect. So, yes, you’re saying public comment on your, on your permanent rule. But what we want to do is if we’re going to pass a rule, we want it to be right. Okay. So if you’re saying today that something needs to come out of this, then by God, bring it to us with it out of it. Don’t bring it to me with it in there.
Pfeffer So I don’t know that my opinion alone would say it needs to come out. The benefit of taking the test is that if a candidate is entering a prep program, they might pass the test and can get a provisional license or get– if they pass the test, then they’ve met that requirement. So that pressure is off of them. If they don’t pass the test, they know where their areas are that they need to be working on. And as they progress through their program, they’re able to identify those areas so that at some point they’re going to be able to earn the standard license. Now, in the meantime, if there are legislative changes so that we have more options for candidates, then that would be an ideal situation down the road where maybe in the future they’re not having to pass a single assessment in order to get their standard license.
Wardlaw In the meantime legislative changes is not what we agreed to Tuesday. We agreed Tuesday you guys would be on the record and say that legislative changes need to happen to make sure that we help the teacher shortage problem going forward. So which way is– again, are you as the Department for legislative changes to remove this assessment content or not?
Pfeffer We are, we are in favor, yes, of legislative changes.
Wardlaw Okay. I’ll come back later. Representative Dotson, you’re next.
Dotson Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just sitting here listening to this discussion, I had a question. This is– these “ors” that, that allow for the provisional license that we would be adding into these rules are repeated throughout the, throughout the section of the rules. Particularly on item number 3 of that, it says one of the ‘ors’ is documented and successful relevant work experience in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach. So, so if they have documented– what does documented successful relevant work experience mean? Does that mean they’ve been teaching in another state, here, under a provisional license currently? What does that mean?
Pfeffer It could mean any of those scenarios that you described, maybe teaching in a private school or in an, in an area where they don’t, they don’t come with the standard license, so that work experience. In the cases, again, in southeast Arkansas, teachers that have been teaching under a waiver, they’ve had that, that work experience. And if, if that’s documented and provided to us, then that’s part of what’s looked at for them to get their license.
Dotson So with that in mind, if someone has been teaching in that sort of an area even under a provisional license, could they apply for another provisional license? Because looking at this, it looks like this is only good for– is that three years, I believe, the provisional license. I think I saw that somewhere in the emergency rule clause.
Pfeffer Typically I believe– I think provisional license is, it is a three year– is what, what the rules have always been.
Dotson So can somebody renew that if they still can’t pass the standardized assessment? They’re a good teacher, or do they just get fired after three years because they, they couldn’t pass the test after three years, even though they have documented experience? If we change this, would this allow them to renew that provisional?
Pfeffer So there are cases where, depending on what criteria is still lacking, that an additional year has been added to a provisional license. And that is not necessarily the case all the time. What– and this goes back to what Representative Wardlaw was talking about– what we have said is that because the question was what happens after three years. What we would hope is that there are legislative changes so that we do not have a singular requirement for a candidate that always goes back to a standardized assessment. So in the future, we would hope there would be options maybe for performance based, a performance based criteria or as– I don’t know what I’m trying to say there. But where the work experience that they’ve done over time and completing their program would count towards them showing their content mastery and being able to get a standard license.
Dotson So I’m, I’m just sitting here thinking kind of through this process and, and the page before the emergency clause on this particular rule change, it, it relates to application fees. A five year– a first-time, 5-year standard educational license is $75, if I’m reading that correctly. But the provisional license, I guess, is– there, there isn’t a license fee or application fee.
Pfeffer There is not an application fee.
Dotson So why would anybody take the test or apply for first time licensure if you can get three years worth of a provisional license to start off with?
Pfeffer So candidates that go through a traditional program, they meet the criteria for a standard license once they’ve completed their program and passed their assessment. So they’re applying for that standard license at the very beginning. Part of what we tried to do in writing this was to write it in a limited way so that it was applying to the candidates that were required to, to pass a test before they had actually completed their program. So, so this is applying to candidates that are in an alternative preparation or we used to call it nontraditional preparation program.
Dotson So is their pay not as high as a standard licensee?
Pfeffer No, it would, it would function as a standard license, so they should be paid according to their, the same salary schedule. The provisional license, though, the fact that there’s not an application fee, Ms. Saracini may be able to give more information about that.
Saracini Karli Saracini, Assistant Commissioner. When we’re looking at this and we’re looking at provisional license, they would have not held a provisional license had they not already passed the exam. So we should not see that to become an issue. But when we’re looking at people that are coming in from reciprocity and they may need to pick up professional development, that’s why we don’t charge a fee on those provisional license. Because I may get in a program, I want to– I’m a career changer and I want to teach, and so I may go through that nontraditional program. But you have to have that provisional license because not all districts have the Act 1240 waivers for waiver of licensure, so you must meet and have a provisional license. And so this is that catch 22 where they need this provision in order to have that provisional license that a district that does not have those waivers can hire this person.
Dotson If I can ask you one thing as you’re going through the permanent rule promulgation, if this happens to pass now, that you look at what happens after that three year period and make that clear in the rule of what, what the the next steps are for anyone that’s in this program. So they don’t– they have some confidence that they’re not going to just be terminated at the end of three years if their provisional license expires.
Saracini And maybe this is the chance to say this, but I have put money aside for what we call licensure ready assessment, where we are doing that tutoring. And there are programs and softwares out there, 240 Tutoring and study.com, that we are making sure people have available. And so that’s why it’s so important if they take the assessment and maybe they aren’t where they should be at that time, it’s almost like making a plan around their needs.
Dotson One final thing. So I don’t know if this is going to pass through today or if we’re going to take it back for a week or whatever. But the emergency clause on this goes into effect and you start having districts and teachers get provisional licenses and they’re all hired. But the emergency rule only lasts for– I think it’s 120 days. So at the end of that time period, if a permanent rule hasn’t been promulgated and is in effect, what happens to those provisional teachers the districts go out and hire if the rule goes back? Are they grandfathered in in some way under this emergency clause or do we just have teachers in classrooms that all of the sudden can’t teach anymore?
Freno There, there would not be grandfathering in.
Dotson So we’d just lose them in 120 days.
Freno Ms. Saracini, do you have a comment?
Pfeffer We, we would not be able to continue on with them having a provisional license until they had passed an assessment, yeah, if we didn’t have a permanent rule in place with this change.
Dotson That’s kind of my concern. Thank you.
Wardlaw Senator Hickey, you’re recognized.
Hickey Yes, ma’am. I’m over here to your left again. I have a, I still have a, I have a huge issue with what we’re saying here. Maybe I’m going to be too basic, but, okay. So first of all, we come in here, again, and I’m going to say this again, we don’t have the numbers. So that’s a problem. And then we sit in here, and I want us to hear what we’re saying. We’ve got an individual who can’t pass a test that we’re going to put into the classroom. And we require our students to pass a test before they, they can continue on. The whole thought process of this is just– I don’t, I don’t like the way it is. And I can understand that you’re telling me, you know, that you’ve got this teacher shortage. But again, and I think some others have alluded to this, we need to go back in and do an analysis. We have individuals within these schools in these other positions that are seasoned individuals that can come back and do it. They’ve passed it. They’ve been in the classroom. And that’s another issue. And I know I’m– y’all understand this. Sometimes, especially in today’s society, it takes an individual who’s capable within those classrooms to be able to manage those students. So not only is there an issue to me from the educational side, it’s also the side that you would just put somebody in a classroom that may not have had any experience to manage those students or not had that training. So I just– it’s kind of hard for me to, to sit here and listen to this stuff about we’re going to allow somebody to go into this profession. I’m going to say this the wrong way, but it’s almost like we’re saying, well, we’re just going to dumb it down because we’re gonna let people in there that cannot pass the test. I know that’s a statement, Mr. Chair, and I apologize, but it’s just something I felt like I had to say.
Pfeffer And, and, Senator, I understand the concern, but it is happening now. It is happening now. And I mean, I don’t have the map big enough for you to see it, but I’d love to sit down with you and share it with you. So, I understand today we’re putting you all in a difficult position. And if we need to pull this and come back at a later time, we can update the Ed Committee with the data that might help you feel more confident. But I think that, I think there are a lot of unanswered questions that we definitely want to be able to help you have the information you need because we want you to feel confident in what we’re asking for.
Hickey And, again, I’m sorry if I’m sounding a little rough over here. It’s just this is bothersome to me because until you prove to me that that we don’t have individuals in these schools that are doing other jobs, that– and it may be things that have been required with reports or whatever it may be that I don’t know who looks at or who doesn’t look at. But if we’ve got veteran individuals in positions that are not teaching, I think we need to look at bringing those into those positions instead of, instead of just trying to circumvent a requirement for a test of a– of somebody that’s going to be coming in that profession. So, you know, it’s not to me about what you’re trying to do. It’s also knowing, it’s also knowing what we have within those schools that could, could go into those places. Thank you.
Wardlaw Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin Yeah. No, thank you, Dr. Pfeffer, for making that suggestion. I think that’s probably a good recommendation.To a couple of just my concerns from take away that you may want to look into a little bit, I’m concerned that if we can do this or cannot do this according to the way the law is written. So it’s one thing to change a rule, but it’s another thing to– obviously, we can’t change a law unless we’re in session. So that’s a concern of mine. And then, furthermore, in response to Representative Dotson’s questions, I think that, that becomes problematic with the process that we’re trying to undertake here if the final rule isn’t adopted. So that needs to be really thought through, I think, a little bit. And then are these people able to go into the classroom or stay in the classroom, and is it just a matter of how they’re considered in how they’re paid, if that’s what we’re trying to solve here? Does that make sense? So I just– those are some things, like, as takeaways that we might need to just have a little more question and answer on. Thank you.
Wardlaw Representative Allen, you’re recognized for a question.
Allen Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all for being here today. I’d like for you all to expound a little bit on the Highly Qualified Professional Act.
Pfeffer So the, the process is in place for, for people who– professors who are at institutions of higher ed to submit their application for a standard license. And I think it was– the number was 13 who have done that. We actually have a commissioner memo that went out last week announcing that opportunity, just reminding people that all of that has been put into place.
Allen Okay. Did, did someone mention that the professors would have to be tested or pass a test or something?
Allen So. Okay. All right. Thank you. I have one more question. If you look at the shortage of teachers, the majority of the shortage of certified teachers are in the Delta. Say, for example, at a school district, they don’t have anyone that is certified in math, science, English. So at the end of the year, if you put someone in that classroom teaching math, teaching science or reading or whatever subject, if that person is not certified, it’s obvious that the test scores in that school district is going to be– going to reflect that the students are performing below proficiency. So if that’s the case, then how are we will– how can we address those issues to make sure that doesn’t happen? Because if you look at the majority of schools in the Delta and in southeast Arkansas, those minority schools, all the, all the majority of those schools, the, the students are performing below proficiency. So how can we get the test scores up when we don’t have certified teachers in there in math and science and English to help get test scores up? So if we just put a teacher in that classroom now, isn’t it true that we’re just putting bodies in the classroom?
Pfeffer I think that in many of those districts, they are making a concerted effort to bring in people who have the background knowledge and skills, and they’re enrolling them– those, those candidates or teachers are enrolling in preparation programs to earn their license. It does take some time, and they’re trying to bring stability to their workforce. And I think until we are able to turn that corner and bring stability to the school systems in parts of the state where you don’t have people in there. There are districts where we know there are probably staff who could be in classrooms, but then there are also districts where there are not available people. So it is, it is a complex problem.
Allen I appreciate the effort. But at the end of the year, the test scores are not going to reflect that we have people in various programs to help bring up the– help increase the test scores. It’s going to reflect that those schools are performing below proficiency. And if they’re performing low below proficiency, sooner or later, the Department of Ed will take those schools over. Am I correct?
Pfeffer I mean, I think that, that your, your point about the low achievement is directly impacted by the quality of teachers that are in the classrooms, absolutely.
Allen But am I correct by saying that if the schools are– if the school districts are performing below proficiency, am I correct by saying that the state will eventually take it over?
Pfeffer Well, there are a lot of factors that go into a district being classified in need of level 5 support. So there, there, there are a lot of issues there.
Allen Okay. Thank you.
Wardlaw Representative Dotson, you’re recognized.
Dotson Thank you, Mr. Chair. So, I mean, I like where you’re going with the overall direction to try to address teacher shortage. I want to be clear on that. I don’t necessarily think that, that someone has to have passed a test to be a good teacher. If they have relevant work experience and they’ve successfully demonstrated that they can do the job, giving them a little extra time to get, get them to pass the test, I think is, is, is a great direction we’re going. But I guess, kind of default, I’m not sure if this is an emergency rule that is temporary in nature that we might not get ourselves in a lot more hot water in about four months if this, if this goes into effect and then we have no place to– these teachers have no way to continue teaching, and they’re, they’re– it could be very disruptive to the classroom in about four months is I guess what I’m saying. My question, I guess, goes back to 1240 waivers. And do you foresee that most of these provisional licenses could be handled through a district requesting a 1240 waiver for teacher licensure in those specific areas where they have shortages of teachers right now? Could those requests be made and granted through the state board?
Pfeffer I think that– I mean, there are, there are– yes. And that has been the approach that some districts have taken. That’s not the pathway forward, though, that we feel like is going to promote sustainability in the workforce.
Dotson No, I agree. I don’t think it’s a long term solution. But I think for the short term, until you get the– go through the regular rule promulgation process, could districts be more surgical in their needs in making those requests if this emergency rule is not approved today? Can a district say, oh, we don’t have the ability to do something– can they come to the Department of Ed, ask for that waiver, and say, okay, we can take care of this until the permanent rule is promulgated and in, in the next few months.
Pfeffer I think, I think the answer is yes. Districts can come and request that. Unfortunately, we have a great number of districts that now are coming back to request an additional five years because that’s the approach that’s been taken for the last five years. So.
Dotson Okay. Thank you.
Pfeffer I understand what you’re saying about the, the timeline if, if we need to go through the regular promulgation process.
Dotson Thank you.
Wardlaw So I pulled your two statutes you told me to pull. I’ve read them front and back. There’s numerous things in the rule that I can’t find in either one of those statutes. I have legal combing over them now to make sure that I’m correct because I don’t say anything is not correct. One of my biggest concerns, and this was my biggest concern last Friday when we got the notice that this rule was coming, is we were here last week for three days. We were here in a special session. We could have addressed the laws. We had Council in July. We had Council in June. So we could have addressed the rule faster than the week school started. Because let’s face it, school started Monday. So when we got that notice Friday, my co-chair and I conversed that we would have to have a meeting either Monday or Saturday or some other way to address the start of school. Because that’s the way the rule was sent to us was that it needed to happen before school started. School started Monday, folks. So what I want to know is why this thing came to us last Friday and it didn’t come to us before the special session where we could have addressed some of these law changes and why didn’t it come to us earlier in the summer before school started. What was the holdup?
Pfeffer We were, we were working through the research at the request of the state board. The state board had their meeting last Thursday. That was the earliest that we were able to pull that together and get that to them. So that’s, that was the issue with the timing.
Wardlaw Me, personally, I can’t speak for my committee members, but I don’t think that’s a good excuse. I mean, we’re sitting here with kids that have to be taught. Monday is when they went back to school and we got a rule change on Friday afternoon after we were here all week for session. I mean, to me, if I was the governor, you’d be in my office on Friday afternoon explaining to me why we didn’t do this in the special session, much less in Council in previous months. Representative Springer, you’re recognized.
Springer Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning. I appreciate you all bringing this rule before the committee in that there definitely is a need to address teacher shortage. In addition, I am of the opinion that the requirements for teacher certification sometimes may have an adverse effect on particularly teachers of color. So that in itself, I appreciate you all knowing that and trying to address the situation. So with that being said, I would just like to call to the attention that this is what the rule, this is what the rule says. It says, “The proposed amendments should serve a limited but critical purpose. They will allow the Division of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue a provisional license for up to three years to an applicant, enroll in an alternative education preparation program who has not yet passed the state mandated assessment for the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach. In lieu of having passed the assessment, however, the applicant must either hold a bachelor’s degree in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach, have earned 18 hours of college credit in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach or have documented successful, relevant work experience in the content area in which the applicant seeks to teach.” So I just wanted to have that for the record. And I just wanted to ask the question, so let’s just say if this rule does pass and you get a number of teachers who apply and they’re there– so let’s just say that you get 113. You all would have to come back before this committee to get approval for any type of appropriation in addressing funding for those teachers, would you not? Or would you not? Okay. All right. So then, so then, could you tell me then what would be the process then? Because I hear underlying concerns regarding, sounds like budgeting, whether or not the state would have to pay for these additional teachers that may or may not be certified to teach and the results, the resulting– what would happen as a result of that, that we would have still a whole lot of teachers who aren’t qualified to teach the students that are available here. So what would be the budget impact, let me just say it that way, of this going forward? What effect would it have on the budget, if anything?
Pfeffer It would not have an effect on the budget because teachers are paid with the local salaries. So it wouldn’t– there wouldn’t be a change.
Springer All right. Thank you. That, that’s my point. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Wardlaw Senator Flowers– I mean, Representative Flowers, you’re recognized.
- Flowers Thank you, Mr. Chair. During the five minute break, I was able to ask most of my questions and in that process learned that what you’re proposing essentially is what we’re already doing in, in our public charter schools. And, but you mentioned in your initial presentation that there is a much, a greater impact in the southeast Arkansas area. And obviously, I’m concerned because my– one of my school districts is affected as being a school district that is taken over by the state. So I guess I would ask, what are, maybe, if you know, two or three school districts that are most impacted by the teacher shortages? And then, I would ask– you know, we talked about our long term subs as being one of the markers that you’re looking at in some of the data and that the numbers you showed me are the numbers thus far with the school district– I mean, with the school year that has just started. So the, the two or three school districts most impacted, and then can you give us an idea as to whether or not the numbers as they stand today are higher than the numbers this time in the last school year?
Pfeffer So when you– I’m not sure if you’re asking about numbers– the districts that are the most impacted with teachers teaching under waivers. Is that what you’re asking?
- Flowers Correct.
Pfeffer And I, I don’t have my school district names on my map. But there are– I would say the districts in the Southeast Co-op area are the ones that have the highest percentages. But also, you have several teachers teaching under a waiver in districts like El Dorado. You have districts, you know– I do know Pulaski County just in the last few days has talked about they still have 50 positions that are unfilled. Not long ago, the Little Rock School District had an article in the paper where they’re going to actually have some teachers teaching virtually in one of their middle schools because they couldn’t fill all of those positions. Again, the numbers are going to be fluctuating based on those local districts, and so–
- Flowers And, and just one quick follow up. What is, what is the impact? I just heard you say, and I didn’t know this, that because of the shortage in a particular junior high school, they’re now resorting to, you know, virtual resources. Can you give us an idea, if we don’t pass this, what will happen?
Pfeffer If, if we don’t pass this, then we will continue to have candidates who are, who are stuck in their programs. And, you know, they’re, they’re not able to have the license. So they may be completing a master’s degree in teaching or a licensure program, and their options, their only work options would be for a district that has an Act 1240 waiver approved. That, that would be one thing. I think the other thing is, again, a lot of this came down to timing so that it would be at the beginning of the school year. And, and I do think whenever we talked about the, the emergency rule, I don’t think those provisional licenses would have to be revoked. I think that we would just not be able to go forward and issue new ones for the subsequent years if the emergency rule were in place and the permanent rule didn’t get promulgated. But again, it, it is something that if we need to come back and go through the regular promulgation process and then look at legislative changes, we can.
Wardlaw I’m being taught myself so, Representative Richmond, you’re recognized.
Richmond Thank you, Mr. Chair, for your indulgence. Really one question, kind of two parts to this question. And it’s concerning the younger teachers who, you know, who spent four years to get a degree in education, come to education, go to a school district somewhere, and then after a year or two years, maybe three years, they leave. Do you have any– is there any survey or is there any collection of data or anything from this particular group or, you know, any group that tries to nail down why these people after investing time and effort and money into a degree decides to walk away from that profession? Have you guys got any data about that?
Pfeffer Local districts may do those surveys. We don’t have a statewide survey that has that information.
Richmond And when you look at our colleges right now– again, thank you for your indulgence on this– but at the universities, do you also see a lowering number of people who are choosing the education field as a career?
Pfeffer Those numbers have declined over time. They have stabilized in the last two years. I believe that we have seen a stabilization in the overall numbers.
Richmond You know, again, this is just a statement, but I really think that there needs to be an effort to collect this data, because right now you’re putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs to be stitched up all the way back to the source. And there is, there’s issues, whether it’s discipline in the classroom– I know I taught for a little while at an alternative school. Tippi here has taught, you know, years and years and years. And discipline is one of the biggest issues that I hear about, especially with young teachers. They walk in there and they feel like they’re walking into a war zone. And we’re going to have to take a big picture look at this problem in order to solve this problem. Because the teachers can’t teach if they have to spend all their time trying to deal with a handful of kids that simply aren’t there to learn. And right now, a lot of teachers don’t feel like they’re being backed up by their administration or anything like that as well. And I truly believe that we will never solve this problem until we dig down into the weeds to the, the really source of this discontent. And it’s more than just money. It’s a lot more than just money. Thank you.
Wardlaw Representative Allen, you’re recognized.
Allen Thank you again for allowing me to ask a question. Could you please explain to me the co-op system and the co- teaching program and co-op teaching program, how it works? And will this help your program?
Pfeffer I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.
Allen Could you please explain the co-op system and the co-op teaching program and how this could possibly help you?
Pfeffer Are you– I’m not sure what you’re referring to with the co-op teaching system. Are you, are you talking about the ARPEP program for teacher preparation?
Pfeffer Okay. Ms. Saracini. I’m going to let her describe that.
Saracini We currently have 11 sites for ARPEP, and that’s our nontraditional that we actually run through my division. And it is boots on the ground, so to speak. And it is at the co-op level and it’s supported with the co-ops. We do have one that’s with Philander that’s here in Little Rock due to the fact that we do not have a co-op in Pulaski County. And we currently have over 400 that are enrolled across the state. And, again, it would have a direct effect on 30 that are participating that had to go on hold and could not be in a classroom. And it is supported with our recruitment and retention mentoring programs that are at the co-op system, because we know that teachers need support. And as they go through, a new teacher needs a lot, just not onboarding, but maybe they, they need extra help in something. And so we have the specialists at the co-op and our recruitment and retention. But ARPEPs are 11 sites across the state and, yes, they are at the co-op level. And it is a system, it’s a pathway that they do a bootcamp for two weeks in the summer. They meet throughout and people do help them. There are people that run, facilitators, and they coach those teachers. They go on site and mentor them through the process. And it is a two year program.
Allen Thank you.
Saracini Is that what you were referring to, possibly? Okay.
Wardlaw I’m not sure who’s in seat 121. Yes. Representative Evans, you are recognized.
Evans Thank you, Mr. Chair. Dr. Pfeffer, could you tell us currently what the pass-fail rate is on the state PRAXIS test for first time takers?
Pfeffer I don’t have the overall in front of me. I do have some of the various exams.
Evans I think that would be important to know based upon that a big factor involved in this rule change hedges on the success rate of passing that test, but yet we, we can’t– we don’t have the numbers to know really what that pass-fail rate is. Secondly, to address Representative Dotson’s concern, I want to make sure. What I think I heard you say– he had stepped out of the room and so I want him to be sure to hear this because I want clarity and I want to make sure that we all. He asked the question if the, if the permanent rule did not pass before the expiration of 120 days of the emergency rule, what happens to the teachers that are in the classroom under the provisional license now? And you had a pause that caused some concern. But when he had left the room, I believe I heard you say no teachers would be displaced. They just would not have a re-issuance of that provisional the following year under this rule change. Is that correct?
Pfeffer So this would allow a provisional license to be issued to a teacher, and that license would be renewed annually. So what I think the effect would be, would be that they would have that provisional license for a year. It would not get pulled or rescinded, but it would not be able to be reissued for the following year.
Evans But we have your assurance that if the permanent rule was not in place 120 days after the issuance of the emergency rule, that no teacher across the state of Arkansas would be removed from the classroom due to not having current provisional license.
Pfeffer We, we would not be able to rescind the license. So as far as a teacher being removed, that would be a local district decision. But it would not be because we would rescind that license, because the rule change would allow us to issue that provisional license for a year.
Evans Okay. Thank you.
Pfeffer So and I do have, I do have some of those licensure pass rates. I found the page. And, and, and it varies based on the type of test.We have it broken down by different, different groups. But again, Mr. Chair, we, based on the number of questions today and the data, we can pull this and work through a– the permanent promulgation process where questions can be addressed.
Wardlaw That’s a proper request. Seeing no objection from committee, we allow you to pull the rule. With that– yes, sir.
Hickey I know I’ve said this three times. Are you going to bring back to us, though, the certified teachers that are within these schools that are in these other positions that could actually teach in the classroom? I do not want to miss that because I am certain that there is a lot of schools that have all these positions. Maybe they’re required to do some paperwork, but you could look at relaxing some of that paperwork and letting those individuals go back into the classroom who have done it for years and years until we get in the session to, to try to totally revamp or whatever, whatever this body wants to do. Thank you.
Wardlaw So thank you. Senator Irvin, you’re recognized.
Irvin I would just also like to add that we there are certified teachers all throughout the educational co-ops, along those lines of questioning of Representative Allen. I don’t know why, if we did really have that, we would be able then to say, we’ll pull those teachers from the educational co-ops and put them back in the classrooms, too. That’s something to be considered.
Wardlaw Thank you, Senator. So with that, we’ll move on to consideration of the ALC draft rules addendum, to Ms. Jill Thayer, the BLR counsel.
Thayer Thank you, Mr. Chair. Jill Thayer, Bureau of Legislative Research. You all have in your folders a draft ALC rules addendum. This is based on Act 3 from the special session regarding the School Safety Grants Program. Under– there was some special language in that appropriation act that sets up a process for Legislative Council authorizing requests from the Department of Education, and this just follows that. It assigns these approval items to the Peer subcommittee. And you’ll see that the first part is that any approved– Peer will have authority over any approval of a request for authorization by the Department to begin the process of promulgating rules for distribution of funds in this set aside. And then once they have begun the promulgation process, approval of transfers from that 3/5 set aside sub-fund will occur only after– it sets out the voting requirement for Legislative Council, which is greater of 3/5 of the quorum present or a majority of the membership of Council. And those approvals can’t be done until the rules regarding the program have been fully completed and approved by Legislative Council. So that’s all that’s in the rules.
Wardlaw Any questions or objections to the rules? Seeing none, without objection, the rules are adopted to be reported to ALC at the next proper meeting. Members, we do have other business today. We have some legal contracts. And I will recognize Miss Jill Thayer to go through those.
Thayer Thank you, Mr. Chair. The Bureau received a subpoena yesterday in the state redistricting case, and the subpoena is for documents held by the Bureau related to congressional redistricting. This is in the case that is filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court. It’s important to the Bureau, as we always do, to protect the legislative privilege that may adhere to those documents. And as such we have already reached out to Mitchell Williams, who is handling legislative privilege issues for us in other cases. We also reached out to the attorney general’s office to see how, what assistance we could get in handling the, the documents required by the subpoena. We were told by the attorney general’s office that they did not have the capacity to handle such a large request and that it would be best to probably go with outside counsel there. So the request by the Bureau today is for the authority to enter a new contract with the Mitchell Williams Law Firm to assist us with creation of a privilege log on these documents and handling any briefing on the legislative privilege that, that’s necessary.
Wardlaw I got a motion do pass. I have a second. All those in favor say aye. All opposed. Ayes have it. Contract has passed. With that, seeing no further business, we stand adjourned.