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New bill could help Colorado's teacher shortage

According to a recent survey, the Colorado Education Association found 85% of educators felt the teacher shortage is worse than they've ever seen.

DENVER — A new bill headed to the Senate floor could help the teacher shortage Colorado has faced over the last few years. According to a recent survey, the Colorado Education Association found 85% of educators felt the teacher shortage is worse than they've ever seen.

The bill would allow Colorado to join the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact. The compact would create new pathways for out-of-state teachers to gain professional licenses here in Colorado. The House passed the bill, now it's off to the Senate floor.

The Colorado Education Association (CEA) is a proponent of the bill. The president of the CEA, Amie Baca-Oehlert, spoke to 9NEWS about how it can make a major impact on the issues educators have been dealing with.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for context and clarity.

What would this bill do?

Baca-Oehlert: Basically what this bill does is just eliminate some barriers for teachers who are coming from out-of-state to come into Colorado to teach. So it really cuts down on the bureaucracy and actually the cost people coming from out-of-state can incur, eliminating them having to retake tests or do duplicative processes that really make it easier to get people into the classroom as soon as possible while maintaining those high standards that we want for our educators coming into our classrooms.

Are there a set amount of states in this compact?

Baca-Oehlert: States do have to opt into the compact and it requires at least 10 states to be a part of the compact in order for it to be enacted. When we get it through the Colorado legislature we believe that we’ll be the tenth state that will allow the compact to move forward and then hopefully other states will join as this gets implemented and moves forward. 

What impact could it have on the teaching shortage here in Colorado?

Baca-Oehlert: We know that a lot of our teaching force does come from out-of-state so we want to ensure that we have the smoothest and easier pathways for those educators to come into our classrooms. We know this school year we started the school year off with a significant number of unfilled positions all across the state. So our hope is that when we have something like this enacted, it will allow us to start the school year fully staffed to maintain people in those positions all throughout the year. Anything we can do like this to provide ways to eliminate that educator shortage is a positive thing.

Some say this is just a band-aid for a long-term solution, do you believe that is the case?

Baca-Oehlert: While we believe that we should do all that we can to impact the educator shortage there is no one bill that is going to solve that problem. We certainly need a comprehensive approach to come at this systemically. But what we can do, we should do, so that is why we’re excited about this bill.

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