Nationwide, teacher shortages are rampant. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 300,000 public school educators and staff left the field between February 2020 and May 2022. Teacher shortages have detrimental impacts that cannot be ignored. Without teachers to fill vacancies, students are left without the educators needed to help them reach new heights.
Utah is facing its own critical shortage of teachers. In 2021, some Utah school districts had teacher turnover rates of up to 18 percent and shortages of up to 33 percent.
Our state’s teacher shortage is a multifaceted problem, but one cause is stringent occupational licensing requirements for teachers that reduce their mobility or their capacity to move between states to fill roles in areas where shortages may be present.
During the 2023 Legislative Session, Utah became one of the first states to adopt the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact through the passage of Senate Bill 35. An interstate licensing compact is an agreement between two or more states to mutually recognize and accept professional licenses issued by each other, allowing professionals such as teachers, nurses, and architects to work across state lines without having to obtain additional licenses or certifications.
Currently, eight more states need to pass legislation to join the compact in order for it to go into effect.
In a recent article titled Portable licenses are a welcome idea, but probably won’t solve the teacher shortage, claims were made that the compact would not help incentivize teachers to move, could worsen shortages by allowing teachers to move elsewhere, and that this change is “not giving teachers what they want.”
Unfortunately, these claims may fall short of the truth. Despite the criticisms against it, the proposed compact for teacher licensure is a critical step towards addressing the teacher shortage crisis in Utah and nationwide. A teacher licensure compact aims to streamline the process of obtaining a teaching license in multiple states, allowing teachers to easily move and fill vacancies in areas with severe shortages. One of the most significant challenges to teacher mobility is the stringent occupational licensing requirements in each state. These requirements often vary widely, which can make it challenging for teachers to obtain licenses in other states. The compact seeks to address this issue by establishing a uniform set of licensure standards for participating states.
Opponents of the compact argue that it may worsen shortages by allowing teachers to move to areas with better pay and working conditions, leaving other areas with even fewer teachers. However, this argument overlooks the fact that the teacher shortage crisis is a national issue that requires a national solution. By allowing teachers to move more easily between states, the compact creates a more dynamic and efficient job market that ultimately benefits both teachers and students.
The argument overlooks the draw that Utah has. In fact, Utah has no problem attracting people to move into the state. Data from the 2022 Census even shows that Utah ranks top ten in population growth.
Moreover, the compact can help address the issue of teacher burnout, which is one of the leading causes of the teacher shortage. By allowing teachers to have greater mobility, they can find better working conditions and opportunities for professional growth, reducing the risk of burnout and increasing job satisfaction. By allowing teachers to easily move between states and find positions that better match their needs and aspirations, the compact can reduce the number of teachers who leave the field altogether.
This compact is a crucial step toward addressing the teacher shortage crisis in our state and nationwide. It offers a practical solution that promotes greater mobility, flexibility, and job satisfaction for teachers while ensuring that students have access to qualified educators. It is time for our state and others to embrace this change and work together to build a more robust and dynamic teaching workforce.