“I think this is another example of a solution not solving the problem,” said Philip Qualman, superintendent of the Eagle County school district, which includes the Vail ski resort west of Denver.
Qualman said the district is grappling with about 90 vacancies, the most it has ever had, including janitors, teachers and bus drivers. Applicants who receive a job offer often end up turning it down when they can’t find housing within their budget, he said.
“I think it’s great to reduce licensing barriers for those who want to come here. But really, who’s going to want to come here when our pay is so awful?” Qualman said.
Adam Diersing, a policy analyst for the Council of State Governments who is working with the Department of Defense to develop and disseminate the pact, said that “we have seen no evidence in past pacts that the affordability of a license is an incentive for someone to move to a new state”.
However, Diersing added that teachers relocate for a myriad of reasons, including caring for aging relatives or joining their military spouse, and that state barriers to licensure may push them to leave the field altogether.
“This can be an effective tool for keeping people in the profession when they want to,” Diersing said.
Amie Baca-Oehlert, president of the Colorado Education Association, singled out underfunding as the main cause of the teacher shortage. Baca-Oehlert testified in support of the bill at Wednesday’s hearing, saying she “definitely opens the door for us to address the bigger issue.”
“We need something that will attract them to our state,” Baca-Oehlert said in an interview after the hearing, adding that Colorado also needs to focus on retaining teachers.
Agreeing that underfunding is a key issue, Democratic Rep. Mary Young said, “We need to continue to recognize that this is a destination state. We’ve seen the number of people moving here and we want to make their experiences positive.” .
Colorado Democratic Governor Jared Polis declined to say whether or not he supports the measure.
The legislation is receiving tentative bipartisan support in Colorado, along with other states where the bill is pending. But Diersing, the political analyst, wasn’t sure whether enough parliaments will join the pact in 2023 to launch it.
He pointed to the Nurse Licensing Compact, which was passed in 2000 and now has 39 member states as of last year. As for the proposed teacher pact: “It’s hard to say.”