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Emergency teacher licenses on hold

JACKSON — Mississippi has seen a nearly 18 percent increase over the past two years in unlicensed educators serving in classrooms across the state on an emergency basis.

In the midst of budget cuts that threaten to winnow teaching ranks, superintendents may find it harder to use unlicensed teachers while licensed ones are being laid off or furloughed to save money.

State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham has said no three-year emergency licenses will be issued this school year or next, said Cindy Coon, director of the office of educator licensure at the Department of Education.

The policy could help teachers who are laid off.

“We want to give those people the opportunity, because they are fully certified and highly qualified, to get any vacancies,” Coon said.

Mississippi has 2,829 teachers in classrooms with emergency licenses, according to the Education Department. That number was about 2,400 during the 2007-08 school year.

Emergency licenses issued this school year range from 483 to teach students with mild or moderate special education needs to one license for an instructor for a visually impaired classroom, according to the Department of Education.

The three-year emergency licenses typically are issued to people with at least a bachelor’s degree who are not certified to teach.

One-year emergency licenses still can be given to certified educators who teach subjects outside their areas of expertise.

The Department of Education’s number of teachers with emergency licenses may not reflect some educators who have become fully certified but whose change in status has not been reported by district officials, Coon said.

To hire a teacher with an emergency license, a superintendent has to sign a statement saying there were not enough fully certified, highly qualified candidates in the area needed, Coon said. The superintendents also had to verify they had advertised the position and filed the vacancy with the Mississippi Teacher Center.

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