Almost a year ago, Iowa’s Governor Brandstad announced the creation of a Military Exchange License “to eliminate licensing barriers for qualified veterans and military spouses who want to teach in Iowa” and also noted that “[a]bout 70 percent of out-of-state residents who apply for teaching licenses in Iowa must take additional coursework to meet the state’s licensure standards.”1 The Military Exchange program permits teachers who are already licensed in another state “to teach up to three years without taking any additional” classes and reduces the cost of getting a license.2 Four veterans, five spouses of veterans, and fourteen spouses of active duty military have now received licenses or provisional licenses to teach in Iowa.3 Could a similar program, if implemented, increase the number of persons of color who teach elementary and secondary school in Iowa? Probably. A similar program would, over time, likely increase the number of candidates for open teaching positions and might make it easier for minority candidates, who were qualified to teach in other states, to relocate to teaching positions in Iowa.
Why increase the percentage of minority candidates? The percent of minority full-time public school teachers in Iowa is 2.2%,4 an abysmally low percentage. Just as businesses have found it beneficial to have a diverse workforce that reflects their customers, schools should have a workforce that reflects their students.
The number of minority students in Iowa continues to grow–Iowa’s percent of minority student enrollment is now 21.1% according to Iowa’s Annual Condition of Education Report for 2014.5 The number of minority students in the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) is likewise growing yet the percentage of minority teachers remains small. The partial screenshot below shows ICCSD’s percent of student enrollment for each identified group in the 2014-2015 year.6
If the Military Exchange License program proves successful in recruiting qualified teachers to Iowa and ensuring positive academic outcomes for their students, Iowa should consider expanding it beyond military veterans and their spouses to other qualified persons who want to teach in the state of Iowa. Iowa should also more closely examine how individuals can get licensed to teach in Iowa as a second career (alternative teacher license program) and how Iowa compares to other states in this regard. That is not to say that Iowa should not be putting the most qualified person to teach in front of children in the classroom–each and every child deserves a qualified teacher. However, there should not be barriers to teaching in Iowa that do not adversely impact educational quality, and the applicant pool for open positions should include many qualified persons to select among. The nation has a compelling interesting in ensuring that all students not only hear that education provides opportunities for careers, including teaching, but that students see evidence of this in the classroom as well.
1February 13, 2014. “Branstad, Reynolds announce removal of barriers for veterans, military spouses who want to teach in Iowa.” [The announcement does not clarify whether 70% refers to out-of-state residents who are already qualified to teach in another state or all out-of-state residents who apply for teaching licenses.] https://governor.iowa.gov/2014/02/branstad-reynolds-announce-removal-of-barriers-for-veterans-military-spouses-who-want-to-teach-in-iowa/
3See Legislative Report Home Base Iowa – Licensed Professions and Occupations Annual Report starting on page 113 of State of Iowa Board of Educational Examiners information packet for January 14 & 15, 2015 board meeting. http://www.boee.iowa.gov/about_us/board/packets/15Jan2015Packet.pdf.
5“Annual Condition of Education Report Iowa Department of Education 2014,” page 30. https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2014ConditionOfEducation_0.pdf.
6See http://reports.educateiowa.gov/ and select your own school district.