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Iowa lawmakers consider series of bills to tackle teacher shortage

Bills would reduce some education requirements and let student-teachers fill in as substitutes in the classrooms where they've been placed.

DES MOINES, Iowa — House lawmakers are considering a series of bills aimed to fixing teacher shortages that have plagued schools across Iowa. 

One piece of legislation education committee chair Dustin Hite (R-New Sharon) is working on is a alternative licensure program for teachers. 

"A person who already has a bachelor's degree and three years of work experience has to get 15 credit hours of teacher education," said Hite. "And then they will be in essentially what's like a year-long internship student-teacher program."

Representatives are also considering eliminating an exam for teacher hopefuls. 

"Because we hear a lot from people who maybe have been the top of their class, or towards the top of their class in college," said Hite. "But because they're not a good test taker, because they couldn't pass that exam, they're not eligible to become a licensed teacher in Iowa."

Another bill would allow student teachers to fill in as substitutes in the classrooms where they've been placed. So far, lawmakers say these proposals have bipartisan support. 

"I mean, what a great way to alleviate substitute problems and get teaching students in a classroom really experiencing it in a different level," said Rep. Sharon Sue Steckman (D-Mason City), who serves as the ranking member on the education committee. 

The Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) said it is in support of these proposals, but there is much more to be done, especially to retain current teachers. 

"We also must look at the funding levels that we have here in the state," said ISEA President Mike Beranek. "Our overcrowded classrooms, the working conditions, the demands put on educators."

Another proposal aims to lower the threshold student-teachers would need to reach in order to qualify for certain state scholarships. Currently, students must be in the top 25% of their class, but this would allow the top 50% to qualify.

WATCH | Reynolds announces $1,000 retention bonuses for Iowa teachers who will continue teaching next year 

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