Dropping advanced degree requirement is bad for educators, Kentucky teachers’ group says

Gov. Matt Bevin’s reconfigured teacher licensing board immediately drew complaints about its first major decision, dropping a requirement that teachers get advanced degrees to stay employed.

“During a time when we are supposed to be encouraging students to think of themselves as college and career ready, even beginning in kindergarten, it seems counterintuitive that our certifying authority would publicly state that it sees no value in having teachers earn an advanced degree,” Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler said after the change.

Teachers in Kentucky no longer have to obtain an advanced degree under a decision made Monday by Kentucky’s Education Professional Standards Board, the state entity that oversees educator preparation and certification. Bevin put the formerly independent board under the control of the state education department earlier this month.

Kentucky teachers advance through their careers — and get more pay — by obtaining additional training and education.

Most Kentucky teachers earn higher Rank II designations by completing a standards board approved master’s degree program or obtaining other national certification, Kentucky Board of Education officials said. Before Monday’s action, Kentucky educators were required to obtain Rank II by the second renewal of their five-year professional certificate.

Wayne Lewis, interim commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education and the new executive secretary of the standards board, said the change was a positive step.

“While many teachers will continue to pursue Rank II with either a master’s degree or through a continuing education option, they will now be permitted to make the choice to do so and to pursue that advancement on their own personal and professional timelines,” Lewis said.

But Winkler said the rollback of the master’s degree requirement “based on the recommendation of a political appointee, proves what we all know: elections have consequences. Educators across the state will remember in November.”

The teachers’ group and the Republican governor frequently have been at odds for months over several issues, including teachers holding mass rallies at the Capitol over pensions and education funding.

On Tuesday, for example, Bevin on The Tom Roten morning show on Louisville’s WVHU radio, blamed the KEA for teachers’ pension problems.

“It’s not our teachers themselves,” Bevin said, noting that he had several relatives who were teachers. “…I understand why people are nervous and scared. They are being done wrong by the KEA. The KEA takes millions of dollars’ dues from hard-working people and then uses it to elect people who fleece them and who underfund them.”

In response, Winkler said, no KEA dues are ever given to candidates.

“KEPAC is the optional organization that our members can pay a separate fee for,” Winkler said. “KEPAC is the only organization that endorses candidates. KEA does not endorse or use dues for candidate contributions.”

Winkler in her Monday statement about the standard’s board said Kentucky is among a minority of states that require teachers to have advanced degrees.


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