Virginia Board of Education takes emergency action to extend teacher licenses

The Virginia Board of Education extends teacher licenses
The Virginia Board of Education extends teacher licenses(wdbj7)
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 7:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Board of Education took emergency action this week to extend thousands of teacher licenses that were set to expire this summer.

Teachers and school superintendents are reacting with a sense of relief, because the problem has been brewing for some time. And they say they hope resolving the issue will lead to better communication and cooperation among state leaders, local superintendents and Virginia teachers.

On the job less than a month, Virginia’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Lisa Coons said addressing the teacher shortage and the license renewal backlog have been top priorities.

“We know that we need a high-quality, licensed teacher in every K-12 classroom and that has been my first initiative as superintendent,” Coons told board members Thursday morning.

More than 15,000 renewable licenses were set to expire at the end of June. And the Department of Education was unable to process all of them in time. The emergency fix was a one-year extension that will keep those teachers in the classroom.

“Why is there such a lag in getting the response from the Department of Ed?” asked Virginia Education Association President Dr. James Fedderman in an interview Friday afternoon.

He supports the board’s action, but says the problem should have been addressed months ago. Instead he said teachers have faced uncertainty about their future.

“And I am confident in saying that many of them have even started to look for other employment, because of not knowing where they stand with their license,” Fedderman told WDBJ7.

Roanoke County School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely is a regional chair of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents. He said the license renewal backlog was a major concern for superintendents in southwest Virginia and across the state.

“Right now we need more folks to join our ranks of highly qualified teachers and those who like working with kids and are qualified to do it. So, anything we can do to reduce the barriers to getting qualified and good people in the classroom, that’s what we need to do,” Nicely said in an interview. “And so we obviously need the Department of Ed to partner with us on that.”

The State Superintendent of Public Instruction said the Department of Education is hiring additional staff, and hopes to act on the current backlog by this summer.

A new license renewal system should also be online by the fall.