Board members under pressure from governor’s office

AUSTIN – A governor-appointed state panel’s decision to drop some training required for teacher certification, narrowly adopted after a push for approval by Gov. Rick Perry and several lawmakers, may need the approval of the State Board of Education.

Had the rule been forwarded to the elected education board for approval Wednesday as originally scheduled, it could have gone into effect without education board approval.

The state Board of Educator Certification approved the rule by a 5-4 vote last week. Some members of the board said they received a blitz of calls, letters and e-mails from opponents and supporters of the rule, including several calls from Perry’s office.

Proponents say the measure would help address an escalating teacher shortage in Texas. But opponents say the measure would put unqualified teachers in the classroom, undermining the value of public education.

Certification board chairman Troy Simmons, a Longview dentist appointed to the panel by Perry, voted against the measure.

“My vote was a reflection of my concern about education reform in the state and whether it’s going to do things to help improve student performance,” he said. “I’ve given 18 years of my life to improve student performance in our public school system. Had this rule been able to do that, I would have voted for it, plain and simple.”

The rule would allow anyone with at least a bachelor’s degree to apply for a temporary teaching certificate and teach eighth through 12th grades without going through the usual teacher training program.

Simmons was one of two Perry appointees to vote against the measure. One other Perry appointee abstained, and four supported it.

Perry spokesman Gene Acuna said the governor has long supported the measure.

“The governor’s support of alternate certification has been very clear through his campaign last year and the regular session of this year,” Acuna said. “His support on this issue should come as no surprise.”

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Robert Scott said he favored the rule change because teachers would go through two years of on-the-job training before they were granted regular certification, in effect increasing certification requirements.

Similar legislation was proposed during the regular legislative session, but lawmakers voted to reject it.

“We were surprised and disappointed to learn that Governor Perry’s office encouraged members of the SBEC board to lower certification standards for teachers,” said Doug Rogers, executive director of the Association of Texas Professional Educators. “It seems that the governor may have been influenced by legislators and special-interest groups who do not have the best interests of the governor or our students in mind. We would hope that Governor Perry’s next intervention would be to call on the State Board of Education to review this rule and reject it.”

Adele Quintana, a Dumas school teacher on the certification board, said she has asked the interim executive director of the certification board not to deliver the rule proposal to the board of education until next week. That would give the elected education board the opportunity to vote at is February meeting.

Typically, decisions of the certification board are sent to the education board for consideration and a vote. The education board has 90 days after receiving the measure to vote before it becomes effective.

The next scheduled education board meeting has been delayed until Feb. 26, beyond the current 90-day window. But, Ron Kettler, interim executive director of the certification board, had not yet delivered the rule to the education board and had not yet decided “what we do next.”

Education board Chairwoman Geraldine Miller would have the option of calling an emergency meeting before the next scheduled gathering to consider the measure.

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