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School officials urge Senate panel to drop certain teacher requirements

CARSON CITY — School officials from around the state told a Senate panel on Tuesday that some educational requirements imposed on teachers to work in Nevada are burdensome and do not add to the classroom learning experience for their students.

The testimony came in favor of Senate Bill 20, which would repeal requirements that new teachers demonstrate knowledge of the U.S. and Nevada constitutions and laws related to Nevada schools to maintain their licenses.

The intent of the bill is to make it easier for school districts to recruit new teachers from out of state to address a chronic teacher shortage.

The bill was heard by the Senate Education Committee, but no immediate action was taken on the proposal.

Nicole Rourke, chief lobbyist for the Clark County School District, said the district faces an ongoing challenge recruiting enough teachers to fill vacancies each year. Mastery of the subjects identified in the bill is not required for teaching in the classroom, and the requirements do serve as a barrier to recruiting teachers from out of state, she said.

The proposal is just one piece of a strategic effort to improve teacher recruitment, Rourke said. The district has raised starting teacher salaries to $40,900 to help with the recruitment efforts, she said.

The Clark County School District started the 2015-16 school year with nearly 900 teacher vacancies after it was unable to find enough qualified candidates. Many of those vacancies remained throughout the school year, filled by long-term substitutes, including retired teachers brought back into service.

Andre Yates, human capital management director at the Clark County School District, said the requirements do not contribute to improved student achievement. He said the district loses between five and 10 licensed employees each year because they are unable to pass the school law or Nevada Constitution requirements.

The tests are offered twice a year. Teachers have to study for the exams and pay the costs of the test out of their own pockets.

The school law test is 70 questions and the state constitution test is 55 questions.

While numerous school officials testified for the bill, Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, said the school law information needs to be provided to teachers in some form.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

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