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Fri, Sept. 20

State seeks to ease requirements for teacher qualifications

PHOENIX -- Over the derision of Democrats, Republican state senators voted Tuesday to expand the ability of people without specific education training to become teachers as a method of dealing with a shortage of people in the classroom.

SB 1042 requires the state Board of Education to adopt regulations for certifying alternative teacher and administrator preparation programs that are "substantially different'' than those for traditional training programs. It also allows local school districts to decide to certify teachers through a "classroom-based preparation program.''

The legislation also eases requirements for people from other states to be able to teach in Arizona classrooms.

Arizona has been plagued with a shortage of teachers for years. Diane Douglas, the state school superintendent, said more than 40 percent of teachers quit in the first two years.

The solution proposed by Gov. Doug Ducey in his State of the State speech was to repeal "outdated rules'' he said keep qualified people out of the classroom.

As proof, he said that Sandra Day O'Connor, the now retired justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is not considered qualified to teach civics in high school.

"That's crazy,'' the governor said, saying lawmakers should let local school boards, superintendents and principals make hiring decisions.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said there's only one problem with Ducey's example: It's "a feel-good story,'' and a false one at that. He said existing rules already allow for someone with credentials in a professional field to go into the classroom while they pursue a teaching certificate.

SB 1042, he said, is not only unnecessary but "dumbs down the requirement for teachers.''

"It's because we don't pay them enough,'' said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson. "And you don't solve the teacher retention crisis by lowering standards.''

Sen. Lisa Otondo, D-Yuma, told colleagues she did not go through normal teacher training but entered the profession through a non-traditional method.

"There are plenty of ways to become a teacher,'' she said. Otondo said said easing the standards won't deal with why many leave.

"It's because of pay,'' she said.

"And you do work all weekend and you do work hours,'' Otondo continued. "I don't know how many of you have graded 8th grade language reports but I can tell you it doesn't take an hour.''

And Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tucson, said the message of the legislation is that special skills are not needed to help students learn, something he said only adds insult to the low salary.

Not all the complaints about SB 1042 came from Democrats.

"Lowering the standards or affirming lower standards doesn't get us where I think we need to go,'' said Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix. But she voted for the measure because she was able to make some changes to the final product to make it, in her mind, a little bit better.

But Sen. Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, said the measure shows lawmakers "are thinking outside the box'' to find new ways to get teachers in the classroom.

And Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, said the experience of her grandmother, who was allowed to teach in the one-room schoolhouse in her community despite never having gone to high school herself, shows that there are many acceptable paths to being in front of a class. And Allen said regulations are not the answer.

"Those regulations don't tell us whether we're a good teacher or not,'' she said.

The measure still needs final House approval before going to the governor.

Movers

Legislation headed to Gov. Doug Ducey should provide some new protections for people who move across town or across the state.

HB 2145 is designed to end the practice by some moving companies of quoting one price ahead of the move and then, on arriving at the destination, demanding more. What makes the problem even more acute is the movers refuse to unload the homeowner's goods until they have cash in hand.

This legislation requires a written contract up front, complete with a detailed list of the services to be provided, an estimated price and other fees a consumer may have to pay. More to the point, if the moving company wants to be paid for additional services not in the contract, the customer has to agree ahead of time in writing.

Once the previously agreed-on price is paid, the moving company must deliver the items. If that does not happen, the legislation allows a police officer to intercede.

The bill, which gained unanimous House approval on Tuesday, does allow a mover to seek additional funds for additional services -- but only in court, and only after everything has been delivered.

Billboards

On a 20-8 margin the Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation designed to allow electronic billboards in a portion of Mohave County.

SB 1114 creates a 40-mile radius around Bullhead City where 35 of these internally illuminated signs could be placed. But even that has exceptions, barring the signs south of Interstate 40 or within about 40 miles of Hoover Dam.

The area is less than had been sought by Lamar Advertising which last year had sought to be able to place the signs pretty much anywhere in the county. But that proved politically unacceptable.

Even with the restrictions there still were objections. Sen. Steve Farley D-Tucson, said the industry should be forced to live with the restrictions negotiated in 2012 which limit these signs to central and southwest Arizona. He said these signs are designed to lure Arizonans across the river to gamble in Nevada

"Our tourism industry and our astronomy industry are too important to the state and are dependent on our dark skies remaining dark to endanger that for a Nevada casino,'' he said.

The measure now goes to the governor.

On Twitter: @azcapmedia

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