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Proposed partnership may help address Hawaiʻi teacher shortage

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State House Education Chair Justin Woodson plans to introduce a measure allowing the state to join the Interstate Teaching Mobility Compact.

It's a new initiative allowing qualified teachers to transfer to participating states and bypass licensing review barriers.

"The concept of the compact has been applied to other licensure programs, such as nursing," said Woodson.

Woodson told HPR the compact could benefit Hawaiʻi by allowing more teachers to enter local classrooms in a timely manner.

"Our Hawaiʻi Teacher Standards Board has to take a look at the applicant, they have to ascertain as to whether or not there is an equivalency in the teacher license," Woodson said. "All of that takes a considerable amount of time and effort. And so what the compact will afford is that it establishes a baseline equivalency of teacher licensure."

Some basic requirements include teachers having a four-year degree and the completion of an approved program within their state. However, further requirements may need to be added.

"This particular effort is brand new, and the compact document was actually just released last month," said Woodson.

It's so new that Woodson hopes 10 states will kick start the initiative.

Woodson's committee is researching legal concerns and teacher qualification standards before proposing a measure in the next legislative session.

"There are 737 vacancies in our classrooms across the state. So that is 737 classrooms that at any given time, don't have a qualified teacher in front of our kids," Woodson said. "We want to make sure that we have licensed, qualified teachers in each and every one of our classrooms because all of our kids do deserve that. The compact itself is one tool. It cannot be the only tool."

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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