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A bill requiring the equivalent of a board exam for Utah teachers passed a House committee on Monday after a lengthy debate.

The proposal was approved by the Senate earlier this month in a 22-3 vote. But it split the Republican members of the House Education Committee and would have failed if not for supporting votes by the committee's two Democrats.

Sponsored by Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, SB78 would require graduates of a university education program to pass a test of pedagogical skills — such as lesson planning and classroom management — prior to obtaining a teaching license.

Teachers who enter the profession through an alternative route, like the new Academic Pathway to Teacher, would be required to complete the pedagogical assessment before their third year in the classroom.

"At some point in time," Millner said, "they've got to reach the same standards as any other teacher."

Committee members discussed several areas of concern in the bill, including the disparate treatment for traditional and alternative teaching routes and the financial burden the test would place on educators.

SB78 does not fund the cost of taking the test, which is estimated to cost up to $300 per teacher, or a combined cost of $1 million each year.

Rep. Justin Fawson, R-North Ogden, said the intent of the bill is good, but it comes at a time when the state is struggling to hire and retain public school educators.

"It's another hoop," he said. "It's an additional expense."

And Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, questioned why educators trained in a traditional program would be held to a standard that their alternative peers do not have to reach for up to three years.

"We're requiring those college [education] graduates to be so much better prepared compared to someone with no preparation at all," she said.

Millner said the bill is intended to respect alternate licensure routes created by the Utah Board of Education, which allow individuals with content knowledge to teach in classrooms without formal teaching training.

She said the bill would ensure that all teachers have both the content knowledge and classroom skills to effectively educate children.

"Change is difficult," she said. "But I think we all should want effectively prepared teachers in all of our classrooms."

The committee ultimately voted 6-4 to approve the bill, which will now advance to the full House for consideration.

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