Arntzen: Flexible options available for schools with vacant teaching positions | Education

MEGAN MICHELOTTI

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen is encouraging public schools in Montana to use emergency clearances and provisional Class 5 licenses to fill teaching positions that are still vacant.

“Help Wanted signs are found in many commercial windows throughout our state, and our schools in Montana are no exception,” Arntzen said. “Filling our schools with quality educators leads to educational excellence for our students. Many Montana residents have helped me revise our educator licensing rules to allow for greater flexibility and streamline a new educator licensing system that meets the needs of our teachers.

An emergency employment authorization is not a valid teaching license, but after exhausting all traditional methods of hiring a licensed teacher, a school may use this type of employment.

People who fall into this category are those who have previously held a teaching license, have academic or professional qualifications, or are teaching students. This type of employment does not apply to special education teachers, who must be licensed.

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From 2020 to 2022, the use of emergency permits doubled in Montana, from 84 in 2020 to 173 in 2022.

A Class 5 teaching license is a provisional license valid for one to three years while educators are in the process of completing the requirements for a full teaching license.

The number of class 5 provisional licenses in Montana has also increased over the past two years, from 238 in 2020 to 258 in 2022.

Jobs data from the Office of Public Instruction website for teachers shows 1,100 current openings for teachers in the state.

There are nine openings at Helena, according to OPI. Karen Ogden, communications specialist for Helena Public Schools, said the number was not unusual for this time of year.

Montana ranks among the lowest in the nation for entry-level teacher salaries, at around $35,000 per year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017-2018, only three states ranked below Montana for beginning teacher pay: New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

“There has been legislative action on teacher compensation as the TEACH Act passed in the last session. This only affects beginning teachers in some districts,” OPI wrote in an email. “As a local controlling state, our districts control the level of compensation offered to beginning teachers. Some of our districts have bargaining units and some do not. Many different factors contribute to teacher pay throughout our state. , but the OPI does not specifically track these factors.”

The TEACH Act allocated $2,492,048 to improve competitive compensation for beginning teachers. Through this, the state will fund up to $3,472 per teacher per year for their first three years in the classroom. In Montana, 94 school districts in 33 counties participate in the teacher incentive pay program.

The number of new teaching licenses issued in Montana increased from 1,251 in 2020-21 to 1,646 in 2021-22.

“We work hard to get the most qualified educators for our students,” Ogden said.

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