Leave teacher licensing as is — for now


POSTED: Thursday, March 05, 2009

Transferring teacher-licensing authority to the state Board of Education, as an audit report recommends, could slow start-up of the program even more.

However, the panel currently responsible for licenses clearly needs help. Rather than dismantling the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board, installing stronger management and oversight will be more effective in moving the program along.

State lawmakers also might have to pass legislation to validate licenses that have expired due to the standards board's delay in renewing them.

The audit found that the board had violated state law when it extended teachers' licenses beyond a 2003 expiration date because it had not been able to develop a renewal program due, in part, to a dispute with contractors.

The audit concluded that the extensions did not satisfy requirements that teachers demonstrate a higher level of knowledge or achievement for renewing their licenses. The audit maintained that without the licenses, teachers could not be considered highly qualified, jeopardizing federal funding under the No Child Left Behind law.

The board countered that it is not responsible for the Department of Education's need to hire highly qualified teachers because its function is merely to issue licenses. But one component of the designation is that teachers hold a state license.

The board, originally formed to set licensing standards for public school teachers, was given the authority to issue licenses in 2001, which had been done by the DOE and considered a conflict of interest since the department also hired teachers.

The board appears to be close to completing its renewal program, but if it does not fulfill its obligations in the near future, lawmakers should consider a change.