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The first day of school this year will also be some Utah teachers' first time leading a classroom.
A new rule granting a teacher license to college graduates without training has won approval from the Utah State School Board.
"Times have changed" not everyone wants to return to school for a teaching degree, said Superintendent Sydnee Dickson.
An existing path gives permits to school district employees after one to three years of practice teaching and college classes. The new license, heavily criticized since being approved by the state board in June, is available immediately to applicants with bachelor's degrees who pass a subject test.
The elected panel over Utah's school districts and charter schools voted unanimously in favor of the measure at its monthly meeting Friday, but will consider tweaks to the policy that several Utah teachers and their unions have decried as an insult to their profession.
Vice chairman Dave Thomas said the move was made in part to address a teacher shortage and has largely been misunderstood.
"I don't view this as an attack on traditional teachers," Thomas said.
Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews urged the board to reconsider, saying the state's affluent districts could benefit, but low-income students would lose out. The rule could overburden schools without enough time or money to hire more mentor teachers to train the novice instructors, she said.
"It's a human-rights issue."
Board member Joel Wright said schools aren't on the hook to grant the new licenses if they don't want to. Under the new policy, administrators are allowed to tailor requirements for a license.
"This is a critical step," Wright said, in giving individual districts control.
The board rejected a proposal from board member Brittney Cummins, of West Valley City, who sought to require that teachers-in-training be hired at a district or charter before receiving a license.
Any tweaks, said Leslie Castle, chairwoman of the board's Law and Licensing Committee, deserve "a concerted, long, thoughtful look."
Board member Linda Hansen, of West Valley City, said at least one school in her district is "desperate" for teachers. The principal asked her to teach math for a day when she visited the school recently.
The panel moved to spend more time discussing that potential change and others at its Sept. 9 meeting. It also approved a task force to study how and why teaching permits are granted in the Beehive State.
Dickson said pushback from unions and individual teachers on the proposed license this summer highlighted a need for more resources for schools statewide. As the board convened Friday morning, she said, administrators across the state were scrambling to fill teaching spots before schools open later this month.
"What we're doing now isn't attracting and retaining and preparing teachers," she said.