The same week Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law one of the nation’s most expansive school choice laws, he also approved a new law that would no longer require a bachelor’s degree for teaching in a classroom full time.
The legislation, SB 1159, allows people without a bachelor’s degree to start training to become a teacher while in college and finish that training while also finishing their degree.
The teaching students will be supervised by a full-time educator while in the classroom with students, and they can’t be fully certificated until they earn their bachelor’s degree. That is unless the candidate has a emergency substitute or emergency teacher certificate, in which case they can teach without supervision.
“S.B. 1159 will ensure that more Arizonans have the opportunity to pursue a career in education and help get our kids caught up,” Ducey said in signing the legislation July 5. “Arizona families know the importance of this effort — teachers are critical to our kids’ success today and well into their future.”
While the law was passed to address the state’s ongoing teacher shortage, this “unfathomable” policy will likely only exacerbate the problem facing the profession, said Jacqueline Rodriguez, vice president of research, policy and advocacy at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
Rodriguez said she worries other states will follow in Arizona’s footsteps.
“It’s not only degrading the profession and the value of what it means to be a profession-ready educator — this is a double-edged sword,” she said.
“We have now allowed K-12 students to be placed in harm’s way with an unprepared person at the helm of the classroom by putting them in a position where they’re not only set up for failure, but it is very unlikely that they are retained in that same position, because they were not set up with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be successful,” Rodriguez said.
The new law also gives more flexibility for teachers with expired licenses to renew their licenses more easily.